Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Three Is a Magic Number

I finished the month of June with three wonderful books: Night by Elie Wiesel (a reread, and powerful every time), Tinkers by Paul Harding, and The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry.

Night hardly needs my summary here; if you have not read Elie Wiesel's memoir of the Holcaust, you simply must. Each time I read it again, I am moved not only by the elegance of his writing about such a terrible history, but also by the power of this tribute to his father.

Tinkers made its way to my Kindle after unexpectedly winning the Pulitzer Prize. Harding's prose is lovely; a true work of literary art. A simple, interesting story is uplifted by Harding's wonderfully artistic use of the English language. It is certainly a book I will reread, as much for the beauty of its prose as anything else.

The Lace Reader
was a surprisingly compelling novel! I started just more than 24 hours ago and found it hard to set down; Alice Hofmann meets Chuck Pahlaniuk, if you can even imagine that. I won't share a bit of the plot as it is simply a book that begs to be read--and anyway, I don't want to give anything away. (I will say that it is set in Salem, and I especially enjoyed the strong sense of place, having visited Salem more than once!)

Unrelated to the narrative itself, I found it interesting when the (self-confessed unreliable) narrator observed that during the time of the Salem witch hysteria, no "witch" was hanged if she confessed to witchcraft. While this does ring true, it also requires some research on my part to verify. I have spent some time this spring learning about my 8th great-grandfather's sister, Elizabeth Emerson, who was hung for infanticide and (I still can't believe this) whoredom. Elizabeth's notoriety grew when she supposedly made a confession to Cotton Mather in the days before her death. As Elizabeth appears to have been unable to read or write, I have always thought perhaps Mather "invented" her supposed confession; I wonder now if it was an attempt to avoid the gallows and return to her young daughter, about whom nothing is know after her mother's death.An intriguing possibility, and one that bears investigation.

So, books for the month of June:
  1. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
  2. The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker
  3. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer
  4. Three Witches by Paula Jolin
  5. The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
  6. Fallen by Lauren Kate
  7. Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris
  8. Night by Elie Wiesel
  9. Tinkers by Paul Harding
  10. The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
That's 44 books for 2010; I'd better keep reading if I'm to achieve my goal of 100!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Awwww, Sookie Sookie...

Sookie Stackhouse returns in Dead in the Family, the latest in Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire series. Sookie sure has lost her inhibitions--she even cusses! I'm not sure I like this change, but I do still enjoy the series. It is just a light, fun read--perfect for the end of the school year. If you like the other books in the series, you'll like this one too. (And if you haven't read Charlaine Harris, I actually prefer her Aurora Teagarden mysteries and suggest you start there!) :-)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Angels, angels everywhere

Today I finished Fallen by Lauren Kate, another book about the Grigori angels...In fact, I'd describe this book as Twilight with fallen angels instead of vampires. I think that if this book had been released before Twilight, I might have liked it a lot more. Then again...I didn't like the portrayal of angels; it did not honor any religious traditions, and frankly, as a lifelong Catholic, this absence of any religious mythology left me confused. I kept trying to figure out which (fallen) angel was which, but the story was not rooted enough in biblical (or apocryphal) tradition to do so. The one word that best summarizes my feelings about this book? "Meh."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Solitude of Prime Numbers

Paolo Giordano's book was so well-named that I borrowed his title for this post. I won't say this as eloquently as he does, but his imagery is so compelling. Mattia and Alice are prime numbers--unique and alone. They may be twin primes--two prime numbers separated only by an even number, like 41 and 43, but even twin primes cannot every get too close to each other.

Mattia is, in fact, a twin; a tragic twin, for his sister disappeared when they were children and has never been found. Alice has her own tragic story, although the causes of her eccentricities are not nearly so tangible. Remarkably, Alice and Mattia find each other...and their friendship, however tenuous, is formed.

It is a beautifully written book; the language alone makes it worth reading. Giordano's use of metaphor is compelling and beautiful; one of the best books I have read this year.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Three...Girls in High School

Three Witches by Paula Jolin is the typical high-school-girls-form-a-coven-and-think-they're-witches with a twist: the girls are Muslim, Trinidadian, and Japanese, and their "witchy" cultural traditions are reflected in the book.

That being said, it was another teenage witch book. Not really my cup of tea (I prefer true fantasy, not the "let's gather the materials to conjure the dead" kind). But I read it, and I promptly dedicated it to the public library. There are plenty of teenage girls who love this kind of thing.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The best things in life...

Choosing the next book to read is easy when you can read it free! (OK, I know, there's the library, which is free, but...this did not require leaving my armchair!) What book did I read for the low price of free, you wonder? The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer, available free for a limited time.

It was an entertaining read, like most Twilight books, but certainly not high literature. My daughter complained that she felt like Meyer only writes in one voice--the book felt like Bella was still narrating. I was not bothered by that (although I am awfully proud to have such a discerning reader); I just felt like it was "typical Twilight."

I finished at school and needed a book while giving a test this afternoon, so I grabbed Three Witches from a pile near my desk. Speaking of typical, it's a very interesting take on the high-school-girl-coven genre in that the first character we meet is a Muslim girl following her old aunt's advice to summon a jinn...

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Hornet's Nest and a Giantess

First things first: I never posted my May summary. This is extra-sad because it is such a short list; I spent most of May reading old journals and letters I found in the attic instead of "real" (i.e. published) books. Of course, I learned that my great-great-grandfather left his family after spending time in the penitentiary; that my grandmother's father died (according to his mother-in-law) because he ate so much he didn't leave any room for his heart; and that three Emerson women--Hannah, Elizabeth, and Martha--were quite infamous in the 1690s--for murder, whoredom, and witchcraft, respectively. But enough of that; here's my May list, which brought by 2010 total to 34:
  1. Rubber Houses by Ellen Yeomans
  2. Angelology by Danielle Trussoni
  3. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
This month, I have been so busy reading that I haven't had time to blog!

Last week I finished The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson. As ever, Larsson writes brilliantly, and Salander is fascinating. I did struggle with how easily Blomkvist falls into bed with...well, anyone who comes his way, and everyone seems to just accept this about him (including the other women who have shared his bed!). In all, though, it was a quite satisfying read, and a wonderful conclusion to the trilogy. I'm only sad that Larsson did not survive to write much more.

Late last night I finished reading The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker. It was a slow starter, but once I lost myself in Aberdeen it was sure hard to leave! Truly was such a big baby that her mother died in childbirth, but not before she murmured her last word--"truly"--which the doctor took to be the baby's name. Poor little Truly has a great big problem: her pituitary gland never tells her to stop growing, and grow she does! She faces all kinds of struggles, not just because of her size, but also because of her mother's death, her father's alcoholism (and death 12 years later), her contrast against her china doll-like sister, Serena Jane, and...well, nothing is ever easy for Truly Plaice. When her sister disappears and she moves in to care for her young nephew, Truly discovers a magical secret in an antique quilt...Oh, it was a book. Along with being a plain old good book, it's an interesting exploration of gender identity and stereotypes.

What to read next?! It's always hard to follow such a good book. I have a great big pile from which to pick, though, so it shouldn't be too hard!