Monday, July 2, 2012

Spring Reads - Recap

The Leftovers
I really enjoyed this book that was recommended by Jeff's aunt Carolyn and would definitely recommend it.  We read this for book club (full disclosure - it was my pick this month).  The Leftovers is a total WTF plot in which tons of people all over the world literally disappear at the same time on the same day.  This particular story follows the lives of people all from the same small town in middle America.  Some of them have had family members and loved ones disappear with no explanation.  Some try to move on and others don't seem capable.  It's super fascinating in a 'what if' type of way, but also VERY readable. I had some complaints about minor flaws in the plot (like how come people don't think it was ALIENS?), but none strong enough to prevent me from recommending this book.

The Lock Artist
I can't wait to loan this one to my Dad.  This story hooks you in the first page and I couldn't put it down until it was done.  The Lock Artist is about a young man who as a result of a childhood trauma hasn't spoken since. Like, not a single word.  But he narrates the book and from the first chapter you learn he's writing his "memoir" from prison.  He learns early that he has a special skill and can open just about any lock put in front of him.  His skills make him a target for some criminal types and he's off on a life of (silent) crime.  But there's aching romance and the plot is fast and well written.  Thanks Jessie for gifting me this book!

When I Reach You
A YA (young adult) book that was confusing at first, but by chapter 2, very addictive.  This was another gift from my friend Jessie, who always has winning recommendations. My only problem with this book was that I never read A Wrinkle in Time as a child.  I'm not sure why, I think it might have been required reading around the time I changed schools and therefore missed the opportunity - but this book made me excited to read it with Edie when she's older. The story of this book quasi-coincides with the story of A Wrinkle in Time and heavily references it throughout the story.  Nonetheless, the mysterious plot line still hooked me and it's YA Fiction after all, it's not as if you can't fill in the blanks. The book follows 6th grader Miranda in the 1970's while living in New York City with her mother.  She starts having problems with her best friend Sal at the same time that she starts receiving anonymous notes in her apartment.  The mystery unfolds!  Try it - you'll like it.

The Emperors Children
Blergh.  I couldn't get on board with ANY of the characters in this book - they were all so lazy and self absorbed and annoying.  I think that was maybe the point of the book, but I found it hard to enjoy and didn't look forward to reading it before bed.  I can't argue with the fact that it was well written prose, I just didn't really like anything about the people in the book and since there wasn't really a plot (it's more a character driven novel), I couldn't fall in love.  I have a feeling there are people out there who really loved this book, which reminds me of the time I didn't like any of Zadie Smith's books for the same reasons and got cranked messages from Zadie lovers around the globe (or at least in Seattle).  What can I say? I like a heroine.

The Postmistress
Surprisingly I loved this book.  It was a freebie from my annual "Christmas Box" of books, so it could have gone either way.  Don't get me wrong, it's S-A-D.  But in a sentimental and articulate way.  I'm slow to be moved to tears and this book made me cry like a baby at the drop of a hat.  It takes place during WWII when London is experiencing The Blitz.  It bounces back and forth between London/Europe and Cape Cod - but both story lines follow strong female characters playing unconventional roles during the 1940s.  One is a radio show host in London for the BBC, telling war stories and the other is the unmarried 40-something postmistress in a tiny Cape Cod town.  There are other compelling characters in both stories and having not lived through this era myself, it FELT like the times were captured well in the book.

Five Quarters of the Orange
Just finished this one over the weekend.  It's by the author of Chocolat, and has a similar feel to it.  It took a while (like 150 pages) for the story to warm up, but it's beautifully written and tells a complex story very well.  Without retelling the entire plot, I'll just say that it is a story of mother-daughter relationships, World War II in rural France, food, childhood with a pinch of romance.  About halfway in, this book finally hooked me and I couldn't put it down for the last 2 days.

50 Shades of Grey
Um.  I really don't have anything to say about this. Except that in my defense it was a BOOK CLUB selection and therefore I HAD to read it.  I will describe it by saying that it is essentially Twilight without the vampires, plus 5 years for the main characters and ... it's super naughty!!

50 Shades Darker
Double um. Because I really have no reason for reading this.  I think when we chose 50 Shades for book club, the requirement was only the first book.  And I seriously said out loud and to Jeff while reading the first book in the series - "This is the worst book EVER!" like every other page.  But I have a problem with book series.  I MUST read them all.  Especially when they end the first book with no resolution what so ever.  Needless to say this book was terrible.... and naughty!!

50 Shades Freed
Um, wow.  This was by far the worst book of the series.  Except they were all so terrible that I'm not really sure what ranking system I'm using here.  If it wasn't for the fact that each book takes about 1 day to read, I wouldn't have finished this one.  By the third book it's naughtiness had lost the appeal (and shock value).

Her Fearful Symmetry
Disappointing!!  This is book #2 by the author of The Time Traveller's Wife - one of my all time favorites.  And while there are some redeeming qualities, the characters are boring and poorly developed and the plot seems rushed and missing motivation and explanation.  I'm bummed because I enthusiastically voted for this one in book club.


This is a page turner, but not exactly a quality book.  The writing is good, but the story/mystery is a bit ridiculous and full of those moments where you want to yell at the main character.  This book is essentially a mystery that takes place in rural England.  A snake expert with a disfigured face is called upon to solve the mystery of why people in her tiny town are being besieged with weird snake incidents.  It would be a good plane or vacation read, but you have to suspend disbelief before you get sucked in.