Thursday, February 17, 2011

Open House

I think this might be my second Elizabeth Berg book? I feel the same about all her books though. I'm also pretty sure I came upon both in the same manner. Every year, my mother-in-law helps with a big book sale for charity (I think that's what it is at least). I'm not sure, but I think all the leftover books get divided up and somehow I always end up getting a giant box of free books at Christmas. The box of books is always addressed to my sister-in-law Kathleen and me - both of us are avid readers. We typically just pull a book out each and as long as we haven't read them, keep the one we happened to have pulled out, then keep going until the box is empty. We both end up with something like 10 new books per year in this manner. It's great. But it can make for a weird, mixed bag of books.

Well, clearly someone who donates to this sale every year really likes Elizabeth Berg because I think I get at least one of her books every year. Someone else also clearly likes trashy chic lit too because I almost always get one of those in the mix. But I can't complain because this year I also got a few real winners. And Kathleen and I haven't even switched books yet!

Anyways, I think Elizabeth Berg's books are maybe for a generation above me, or at least being over 40 would be helpful. They are very much books about a certain time in your life, and I think I just haven't reached that time yet. I'm just not quiet ready to relate to mothers of middle schoolers, in fact I'm not really ready to admit that I will ever be one. And I'm definitely not able to relate to the fall-out of divorce, which is what this book is all about.

All of that trash talk aside - she's a good writer. She really captures the essence of being lonely, sad and what it means to struggle with the question "What am I doing with my life?" I liked her descriptions of the main character wandering through the house and the funny/weird things you do when you know that no one is watching (like take off all your clothes and examine your body in the mirror). It only took me a day to read, but I can't say I'd really recommend it. Unless you're over 40, are a parent to a middle school aged child, and/or are going through a divorce. In which case, I definitely recommend it.

Sweet Love

This book was terrible. Don't read it.

Parrot and Olivier in America

This was a book club pick and I read it so long ago now that I'm struggling to remember what I liked about it.

It's incredibly well written, but it's definitely not the kind of book you can just sink comfortably into. In many ways, I was about halfway through it before I started to look forward to reading before bed. But there are certain descriptions and bits of dry humor in there that surprise you (in a good way). I think more than anything, I appreciated the insight into early America that this book provided. The story is told by two narrators - Olivier, a French nobleman and Parrot, a poor Brit. Both travel to America post-French Revolution in a tangled web that links them together and their unique insights and opinions on America were fascinating.

Cutting for Stone

I loved this book. Well, maybe one step below "love"? I'm always hesitant to use that word with books unless I was totally smitten. But this book was a great combination: articulate and thoughtful, but also completely engrossing.

The story is about Marion, who is a twin to his brother Shiva. I confess to loving books about twins. Marion and Shiva were born to a nun (read: scandal) in Ethiopia who dies in childbirth. The father, a physician at the hospital where the nun worked, flees the scene. The book is Marion's story - it follows his entire childhood and has major themes of coming of age, family, unrequited love, politics, Ethiopian history (who knew it was so fascinating!?) and probably most of all - tragedy. Someone I know who read this book agreed that it was good, but was bothered by all the bummers that befall Marion in his life. Once she'd said that, I will confess that I started to notice these things more, but all in all, I still loved(?) the book. It's also important to mention that Marion and Shiva don't end up living an impoverished and depressed life having been orphaned at birth. In fact they are taken in by the hospital staff who live on the premises and they have a wonderful, warm and loving family. The early chapters about Hema and Gosh (other doctors at the hospital) were some of my favorites. I also loved when the book comes full circle towards the end when Marion moves to New York and we find what became of his father.

Anywhooo, I would highly recommend this for a book club pick.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Hunger Games Trilogy - The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and The Mockingjay

OMG. This was the most addictive reading I've done since I can't remember when. It's young adult reading, and I don't recommend it unless you're on board with that. And I know that some of you feel about YA Fiction the way I feel when someone tries to recommend a "Graphic Novel" (barf). But if you can climb on board the young adult train with me - I'm telling you that you will be rewarded. This reeks of something I would trash, but it's so suspenseful and fascinating that I couldn't help but love it. It actually reminded me a lot of another YA trilogy that I loved - The Golden Compass (I think the trilogy is called "His Dark Materials").

The stories take place in a post-apocalyptic North America where there is now the country of Panem. Panem is ruled by "The Capitol", which is surrounded by 12 outlying districts that all exist to support the Capitol. The Capitol is a terrible dictatorship and after an uprising in the now non-existent District 13 seventy four years earlier, the Capitol devised The Hunger Games. Each year, every district is forced to draw the names of one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 and these children will be sent to a large and creepy outdoor arena devised by the Capitol to battle it out for the death on live TV. Only one child is allowed to live. They do this to remind everyone in the districts that the Capitol is all-powerful and to keep the Districts submissive and scardy pants (and because they are eeeeeevil).

So, back to the story - 16 year old Katniss Everdeen (yes, everyone has weird and bad names in this book, but again, you must climb on board) is our heroine because she volunteers to take her little sister's place when her name is drawn. And that's really all I want to tell you. Except there is suspense, violence, unrequited love, drama, rebellion, and weird futuristic scenarios that are oddly fascinating. Like to the point where you try to fall asleep but CAN'T because all you want to know is what will happen next?!