Sunday, March 14, 2010

Reviews - A Compilation

I've been a bit lax about updating the blog because we've had so much going on here. So, here are a few of the books I've read recently and what I thought about them ...

Goldengrove by Francine Prose

My rating: 3 stars

I liked this book but I didn't love it. I suspect my lack of love for it had something to do with the subject matter - grief. This book explores how a family is impacted when a family member passes away unexpectedly. The entire book was sad and I felt almost like I'd gone through the grief process myself by the time I finished the book. In that regard, I believe Prose was able to bring the grief of this family and this girl alive to the point that I almost took it on myself. And felt exhausted after reading it.

Francine Prose has written a beautiful book. Her writing is just fantastic and kept the book afloat for me. I was disappointed in the extremely slow plot development. Unfortunately, the plot development (or lack thereof) kept me from loving this book. It was slow. Sometimes painfully slow. It was only the beautiful writing that kept me reading, quite frankly. I think its entirely possible that the lack of plot development was a technique that Prose used specifically to demonstrate the flow of grief. Which I can 'get' intellectually but it wasn't effective in the overall flow of the book, for me.

The story is a bit sad with occasional moments of dry humor which were nice little reprieves from the overall sadness of the novel. I liked that the story was told from the perspective of Nico who was a fascinating character. The book focuses on Nico - her perspective, her growth, her questions and her fears. It's not a light read. It's heavy and makes you think. Nico was a captivating character for me. I really felt her pain and the impact of that pain at her age - a time when she was really trying to figure out who she was and what she wants.

The entire Aaron situation was indeed creepy and sad - but I think it was critical for Nico's development and her journey through the grief she was struggling with throughout the book. I didn't find it nearly as disturbing as I think was intended. I just felt he was sad and pathetic. And, in the end, I viewed him more as a plot device than a real character with that something that makes a character ultimately stand out to me.

Overall, I'm glad I read this book but it had a number of flaws that ultimately took away from my overall enjoyment of the book. It is an excellent exploration of grief but the plot development issues kept me from loving it in the way I'd hoped.

A Bone to Pick by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 3 stars

I am really enjoying this cozy mystery series by Charlaine Harris. Although not wow'd by it yet, I did enjoy the first and now the second book in the series. I look forward to reading more in the future. It was a nice, light read in the midst of a number of heavier books. It was the perfect in between book! I think the series has promise but its not quite living up to its potential yet. I'm eager to keep reading to see if Harris is able to find a fun rhythm with this one! 

Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
My rating: 2 stars

I should start by saying that I am not typically a fan of magical realism. It's just not my thing. And, that is primarily why I'm rating this book as I am. I was distracted by the magical realism - I didn't enjoy those portions of the book and found them to be 'too much' for me. I found the story overall to be a bit too much for me, quite frankly. Overly dramatic ... and just ehhh. I'm not a fan of this one but I can understand why some might like it. If magical realism is up your alley, this would probably be of interest to you.

I found the characters to be annoying, difficult to enjoy and excruciating to watch at times (for me). I didn't like the writing overall either. I felt it was oversimplified and didn't seem to flow well for me. I kept waiting for something, anything, to pull me in and engage me. Unfortunately, that never came.

At first, I loved the food but eventually even that became 'too much' for me. It almost felt like it became an unnecessary interruption for me. In the end, I was very disappointed in the book and wish that I liked it as much as others have. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this one.

Things I Want My Daughters to Know by Elizabeth Noble
My rating: 3 stars

I enjoyed this book. It wasn't amazing or anything but it was a nice solid read. Very chick-lit oriented. It was a nice, fairly quick read. The story was interesting, the characters were fine. As always, with this type of book, it was all tied up in a nice bow. Nice chick-lit story but if you want something with some depth, this isn't the book to choose. If you want a nice, quick, easy read, this is the book for you! 

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton
My rating: 3 stars

I really struggled with rating this one - it was really more of a 3 1/2 star book to me but not quite a 4. But, don't let that keep you from checking it out.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. I liked the way that the author interweaves history with the stories of these women. I enjoyed the idea of their writing group and how it grew into lifetime friendships. I've had a lot of individual friends who I felt like this with but rarely have I had a group of friends like described in this book. So, it was an interesting view into that type of friendship for me.

The reason that I ultimately rated it a bit lower is that something about the characters was less 'real' than I usually like. At times, they felt very real to me but most of the time they felt very two dimensional to me. I didn't truly care for them yet I didn't dislike them. They were likable but didn't jump off the page for me. The stories and the themes should have had me laughing and crying but I wasn't. I kept reading, interested in where it was going, but I didn't actually FEEL anything. Which was surprising and fairly disappointing. Maybe it was something about Meg Waite Clayton's writing style that just didn't quite work for me. I'm really not sure. It had all the ingredients that I love but it just didn't come together for me.

On the positive side, I love the weaving in of history with the individual stories. It gave each story more texture and I really enjoyed seeing history through the character's eyes.

Overall, I enjoyed this book but I didn't love it. It had potential but it ultimately missed the mark for me.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
My rating: 3 stars

I've been wanting to read this book for some time, it's been in my to be read list almost since it was first published. And, ultimately, I'm glad that I read it but I'm not sure that it lives up to the hype I've heard about the book.

I'm not going to give much of a review because I think, for those who have not read the book, reading too much about the details can take away from the reading of the book. This is one of those books.

I found the book very easy to read - the writing was good, very simple and conversational. The themes were compelling but the execution was less definitive than I would have liked. I guess I wanted a bit more exploration of the events/issues behind the themes and, for the most part, Ishiguro left a lot open to reader interpretation. This tactic isn't necessarily bad but I ultimately wished more had been delved into and less left up to me. I felt that this lack of exploration took away from the 'experience' of the novel and made it less impactful than it could have been.

Although I'm glad that I read this one, I was surprised at how little it did for me. I felt a bit frustrated at the end - there was so much potential there and it never seemed to go anywhere.

Candy Girl by Diablo Cody
My rating: 2 stars

I really wanted to like this book. I'm a fairly big Diablo Cody fan - I think she's refreshing and interesting. I loved Juno. I think it was a fantastic movie! And the premise of this memoir was interesting - a year in the life of a stripper. But, it just failed to be interesting to me. I wasn't shocked by the content of the book but I just didn't find it to be particularly engaging. Yes, the content is, as you'd expect, highly sexual. But, that didn't bother me. I just found it to be self-indulgent and I'm still not quite sure why she titled her book what she did ... what is unlikely about what she describes as her journey into and out of stripping? I'm not sure about that and I kept wondering as I read why I was bothering. That's never a good feeling. I do like Cody's 'voice' - she's clever and refreshing in her tone and her style. But, the content, left a lot to be desired for me. I'm glad I gave it a try but I cannot recommend it.

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