14 May 2012

MAY 2012

Interesting MAY Web Posts

Rating Systems That Mean Something :

The Most Overrated Books Of All Time 
(a controversial list ~ with controversial additions in the comments) :

09 May 2012

The Accidental Tourist ~ Anne Tyler

 *** LIKE ***

Winner : National Book Critics Circle Award 1995

A more than pleasant diversion
Lightweight but with depth

I needed something while travelling and this was just right.  It wasn't challenging but it was engrossing.  The story flowed convincingly and the characters were well constructed and their actions believable.  The eccentricities of the family and the foibles of Muriel (and Edward, the dog) are wryly amusing and the combined quirkiness of all the characters drew you in to their benighted lives.

Touching, funny ... just a good old fashioned nice read  ... lightweight enough to disappear into but well written enough to hold you captive (even if I wasn't fussed about the ending)!

08 May 2012

Home ~ Toni Morrison

** LIKE **

Finalist : National Book Critics Circle Award 2008

More of a novella than novel
Short but packed with emotion

I liked it but wasn't blown away by it.  It was finely written.  It is detailed and descriptive. It was emotive.  But it was maybe a little too lean and sparse to be lyrical or poetic.  It wasn't overly complex, making it an easy read, but I also didn't feel that connected with the characters. The way the story switched narrators (almost The Done Thing in current writing!) was well done.

I am trying hard not to compare it to Mudbound by Hillary Jordan but there is a similarity in themes (black poverty in the South, injustice for returned black soldiers) and brevity and I found that Mudbound resonated far more deeply.

07 May 2012

The Monsters of Templeton ~ Lauren Groff


A coming-of-age story for a town and its inhabitants
Multi layers of monsters, past and present

 I really enjoyed this!  It was quirky and you had to pay attention as it jumped along a timeline and between characters.  I found it played with the reader, inviting you to swim with the monsters, while slowly eking out the history of the family (and Cooperstown ... whoops ... Templeton).

There were mysteries to be revealed and solve. Willie embellishes the family tree, filling in the gaps through her research and, in doing so, she becomes part of the town that has her family stamp on it.

Made me want to go and re-read "Last Of The Mohicans" by James Fenimore Cooper and certainly made me Google Cooperstown (its B&Bs and the Baseball Museum) and put it on my list of places-to-go.

This was a wonderful tribute by Groff to her hometown.

06 May 2012

The Song Of Achilles ~ Madeline Miller

Tournament of the Books : 2013 

Just didn't like it
Sword & Sandals bodice ripper

I am obviously in the minority ... it went on to win the Orange Award after I read it and before I got to write this review ... but it doesn't change my opinion.

I thought this was shallow and trite.  So, big deal, they were in a young homosexual relationship, but this seemed to be the repeated point of the novel.  Rather than the epic tale, this was nothing more than bodice-ripper.  Achilles ... sigh ... Patroclus ... sigh.  Enough already!!!  Don't care a fig about their sexual orientation, this just didn't provide the historical reality I expected and this was Homer-lite. I thought the author did not do "male" voice well and got away with it by making gush in a girly fashion.

04 May 2012

Say You're Sorry ~ Michael Robotham

Lucky me!!! Advance Copy
Masterful suspense.

This was an advance copy, not yet released.

While I think I enjoy the character of Ruiz better in the Robotham series, it seems that Joe O'Loughlin has been the hero of my two favourites, Shatter and now Say You're Sorry.  (But of course, I have also given my heart to Luca, the hero of The Wreckage, a highly recommended international intrigue.)

Say You're Sorry is a gripping page turner where you are presented with a slew of possible villains ... each one capable and a reasonable choice as the perpetrator.  But in your head you keep piecing information together (helped by Joe), discounting your last "Ahh Haa" moment and moving on to your next "maybe-its-???" consideration.

Sorry, no more ... no spoilers.  I shall have to come back for a rewrite after the release.

The narrative is presented from two viewpoints : Joe and the victim, a young girl held hostage (and that is another great plot device ... keeping you guessing as to her fate).  All the vulnerability and worldly bravado of a teenager were well written in the "voice" of the Piper, as were the intricacies of her family dynamics.

The only thing wrong with an Advance Copy, is that now I will have to wait for the next one! And you have the pleasure yet to come!! 

03 May 2012

When The Emperor Was Divine ~ Julie Otsuka

< OK >

Short, sharp writing ... the only poetry is in the title!
US internment camp for Japanese during WW2

I didn't enjoy this near as much The Buddha In The Attic and I'm glad that I read that one first.  (Chronologically, the author wrote When The Emperor Was Divine first ... but the time period it is about comes after The Buddha In The Attic).

The impact of WW2 on US Japanese citizens was harsh.  Families were broken up and moved into camps.  This is written though the eyes of one family ... and mainly through the eyes of the children.

At times I felt that this allowed the author to get away with painting the picture with a broad brush and skimping on historical detail.  It has the same randomness of style that I enjoyed in TBITA but in this I found it simplified the information and made its delivery inconsistent.

02 May 2012

Alys, Always ~ Harriet Lane

 * LIKE *

A cheeky little plot with a scheming "heroine"
Subtle, slow development

This is one of those interesting books where you are not quite sure if you like the central character or not.  Frances is manipulative little wallflower who more than makes the most of the situation to feather her own nest.  And she never does anything bad, no one necessarily gets hurt ... she just makes sure that things work to her advantage.  But she is a cunning piece-of-work!

This is an easy read.  It is a peep in the window of Frances' boring, downtrodden publishing world as she puts her toe in the door of the more privileged world of famous author Laurence Kyte.  Observations are wryly funny and sharp.

01 May 2012

When She Woke ~ Hillary Jordan


Scarlet Letter going the whole alphabet!
A confronting blend of SciFi and the Religious Right

This is a most provocative read, as was Mudbound.  But where Mudbound was set in the not-too-distant past and was thought provoking on racial issues, When She Woke was set in the not-too-distant future and pushed the boundaries with religion and women's issues.

It takes a brave author to create such a believable (on our doorstep) dystopia of life ruled by super conservative Mega churches with no separation of church and state.  And then to throw abortion and a touch of homosexuality into the mix.

I know that it leaned heavily on The Scarlet Letter, blended with a little of The Handmaiden's Tale, but I found it a compelling and confronting read.  When not reading I was keen to get back to the book to find what would happen.  The concepts were well developed.  Criminals were "chromed" rather than sent to jail ... that is their skin was colour coded and then they were pushed out into a harsh, judgmental world.  There was a tendency to be heavy handed and to be a bit stereotypical with some characterisation, but it kept the novel short and the pace fast and the theme strong.