The title of this memoir/literary criticism hybrid delivers exactly what it promises. A teacher dares to ch...moreReading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
The title of this memoir/literary criticism hybrid delivers exactly what it promises. A teacher dares to challenge an unimaginably oppressive Muslin regime, by reading “Western” classical fiction at a time when all thing “Western” was either illegal or openly despised. As Azar Nafisi strives to educate her students, we get a unique perspective on some of our beloved novels. How do you teach Lolita about the disturbing rape and forced captivity of a 12 year old, when the legal age for marriage in Iran is nine? How do you approach Gatsby when adultery is a crime, western excess is shunned and of all things you have to be worried about your veil slipping off when your gestures become too animated?
Nafisi handles all this in stride. Finding courage in her favorite heroines, and instilling passion in her students as all great teachers become accustomed.
The literary criticism, moments and theories alone are enough to make the book a worthwhile read for fellow lit junkies. The book is full of relatable moments as the students grapple with the literature and characters. A standout scene involves a stringent Islamic Revolutionary using an EE Cummings poem to woo his unrequited lady love. This setting is Tehran however so not all scenes are so light, there are doses of executions, rape, and shameless brutality, but Nafisi masterfully balances the tone; keeping the reader enthralled through several genres of storytelling.
You’ll want to read this one as your favorite authors and novels inspire so many different women to pursue their own dreams even if at tremendous costs. In a word memorable. (less)
What secrets lie in the pages of a sixty million dollar 500 year old book? Geraldine Brooks tells the story of the real Sarajevo Haddagah in her lates...moreWhat secrets lie in the pages of a sixty million dollar 500 year old book? Geraldine Brooks tells the story of the real Sarajevo Haddagah in her latest novel, People of the Book. Through CSI-style technical research during the book restoration process, clues to the books orgins, owner’s and secrets spill out over centuries. No topic is off limits, as Brooks humanizes some of histories great intolerant atrocities. One comes to expect an informative read from this particular author, but I was absolutely blown away by this book. This book was a thoroughly enjoyable read. The deft structuring of the novel consumed me from page one—and had me sneaking in short readings wherever and whenever I could. I’m highly recommending it as one of the best I’ve read this year (so far).(less)
Sometimes the end justifies the read; this ending for me was a good one. The Believers by Zoe Heller, is the tale of a family at a cross roads. When t...moreSometimes the end justifies the read; this ending for me was a good one. The Believers by Zoe Heller, is the tale of a family at a cross roads. When the family’s patriarch collapses, the family starts to unravel quite quickly. The book presents a cross section of the things people believe in: marriage, religion, values, ourselves, family, etc… It also examines and tests the character’s faith in their beliefs during tumultuous times.
There were times I definitely wanted to put the book down. The biggest contention was one of the novel’s central characters, Audrey, who is horrid at times. She is awful to her children and hypo and hypercritical of everyone else. And due to the novel’s structure we are forced to feel her presence in every chapter.
My strong reaction to Audrey, is a good example of how well characterized the novel is. The Litvinoff family is alive. As a counterpoint to my dislike of Audrey, I quickly adored Karla her daughter. She’s a welcome breath of readability in a sea of self important brats. While some of the other plot lines don’t really take off for me, and the big surprise is a little expected, I can’t emphasize how the tie up is worth picking up the book. Even if Audrey can’t entirely redeem herself, you can at least see how it works out for Carla (less)
Upon his return to the Gold Coast, John Sutter is headed for a happy ending. After a scandalous affair that destroyed...moreThe Gate House by Nelson DeMille
Upon his return to the Gold Coast, John Sutter is headed for a happy ending. After a scandalous affair that destroyed his marriage and way of life ten years ago, it seems he has reconnected with his ex-wife, Susan, the love of his life. He’s able to forgive her affair with a Mafia Don even though it led to her murdering her lover and plunging John into misery and humiliation. But he’s not the only person to resurface…his wife’s ex lover’s son is bent on revenge. And his ex-wife’s horrible parents want to thwart any chance of a reconciliation. As John battles for his life back, he learns there are still many secrets left to be revealed.
What’s Good: Be forewarned—this novel is instantly consuming. DeMille’s conversational style of narration captivates the reader. The novel is a cross genre success: part social commentary, part suspense novel, and with a fair amount of romance; this book is simply fun to read. You also won’t need to pick up the prequel The Gold Coast (though you may want to), as DeMille quickly sucks you into John Sutter’s world. I hope I’m not alone in the hopes of another sequel.
What’s Bad: Almost nothing, but the book does stretch on for 670+ pages. So be prepared to devote a good block of time and possible late nights to this worthy treasure. (less)
Sara Young’s debut novel opens in Occupied Holland. After her mother’s tragic death and her father and brother’s disappearance, half...moreMy Enemy’s Cradle
Sara Young’s debut novel opens in Occupied Holland. After her mother’s tragic death and her father and brother’s disappearance, half Jewish and blond Cryla, is passing as Dutch and living with her mother’s family. As the rules for Jews become increasingly stricter and the risk becomes too great, she finds a way into the exclusive Lebensborn program. Lebensborn, the cradle of life, is a German ran maternity house that breeds future soldiers for the glory of Germany. “The pram is mightier than the tank,” or so they say. In order to successfully navigate the program she will need to pose as her cousin, become pregnant, and hide her heritage. Everyday will be a fight to survive, and if she does she still has to escape… Though brave and determined Cyrla is left with very few people she can trust, many secrets, and certain death to her and her loved ones if she is caught.
The story is part historical romance and greater parts an uneasy reminder into one of history’s dark periods. Although the subject matter at time is unsettling, the novel is packed with suspense and surprises. (less)
This novel opens as a newlywed couple purchase their first home, a half of a duplex next to the prestigious Senator Naughton and his wife. As they str...moreThis novel opens as a newlywed couple purchase their first home, a half of a duplex next to the prestigious Senator Naughton and his wife. As they struggle through their firsts--house, fights, children, etc; they probe into the life and marriage of the Senator and his wife Delia. The story is also told through Delia’s perspective as she grapples with a long term marriage, the after affects of infidelity and forgiveness. Both marriages are in turmoil yet salted with moments of genuine affection. The characters endure through decades contrasting and commenting on both marriages, and make a comment on love and relationships in general.
This book dispenses some amazing and humorous moments. The relationships within the story are commendably honest. The character of Delia is spunky and adorable, and her unwavering love is admirable.
But most of the book was just too hard to read. There was a lot of sex, but it was more off putting then sexy. And sex on some level is written into almost every description in the story. This one line simile may be a contender for the worst ever written, “Her wild white hair was an aureole around her face.” I almost couldn’t get past that one. The book also excuses infidelity and dishonesty with minimal consequences for the main characters.
The story also suffers from structural issues. The plot structure jumps back and forth through time awkwardly. The way Miller executes this and through excessive foreshadowing; there are absolutely no surprises in the book. Finally the book culminates in such a mildly disturbing and strange way, it leaves the reader almost exhausted. Unless you’re a big Sue Miller fan, you might want to skip this one. (less)
The sweet and independent Dr. Megan Blair has her life under control. Or she did until she is nearly murdered. And it just gets wors...morePandora’s Daughter
The sweet and independent Dr. Megan Blair has her life under control. Or she did until she is nearly murdered. And it just gets worse…could the same monster that killed her mother years ago be after her? When a sexy stranger appears out of the blue to save her, Megan isn’t sure who she can trust. Then there’s the new physic ability she’s discovered and can’t yet control—only her life depends on it. Soon the stakes get direr still as the fates of the only people she loves are thrown into the mix. Megan sets out on an international chase deeper into her past to try and determine her future.
At times the plot veers a little predictable and formulaic, but it’s hard not to enjoy this fast paced suspense novel. Iris Johansen has delivered a nice amount of steam and intrigue that doesn’t disappoint. (less)
In this coming of age story, an ordinary girl fights to succeed in the most extraordinary environment. Fourteen-year-old scholarship student Lee attem...moreIn this coming of age story, an ordinary girl fights to succeed in the most extraordinary environment. Fourteen-year-old scholarship student Lee attempts to achieve greatness by enrolling in a prestigious boarding school. Besides the typical teenage girl drama (read boys and friends), she ends up battling mediocrity, loneliness, and class issues.
Lee is written with an authenticity that will make you cringe as she conjures memories of you as a high school student. She’s written with the unmistakable blend of vulnerability, narcissism, and naiveté that defines the teenage girl. The novel is undeniably chick lit, and may not offer much to the male reader, but is a relatable and modern coming of age novel. (less)
The Impostor’s Daughter by Laurie Sandell was the first graphic book I’ve ever read. I’m not sure if I would have ever picked up a graphic anything, i...moreThe Impostor’s Daughter by Laurie Sandell was the first graphic book I’ve ever read. I’m not sure if I would have ever picked up a graphic anything, if this book hadn’t been a memoir. The idea of mixing the two seemed like an easy way to broach the genre. And two hours later, I had read the book cover to cover.
The author decides to write an article on her remarkable pop. While fact checking, she uncovers that his stories are fiction. More research uncovers lawsuits stemming from bad business dealings, and identity theft. Laurie is devastated after years of idolizing her dad. Feeling betrayed and disillusioned Sandell finds it cathartic to write her article anyway. The story covers the resulting fall out.
After reading the book, I still don’t have a clear picture of why she chose to expose her dad so publicly and alienate the rest of her family, but more memorable then her story is the clever and original way Sandell had chosen to tell it. Whether it is your first or just your latest graphic book, this honest portrayal of family dysfunction which in the end inspired remarkable creativity is an amazing way to kill a few hours. (less)
At a recent dinner party, the host pushed this memoir into my hands after mentioning it at least five times. “You must read this,” she declared. “It’s...moreAt a recent dinner party, the host pushed this memoir into my hands after mentioning it at least five times. “You must read this,” she declared. “It’s about a family who is dirt poor and her stories are so crazy…you’ll love it” The only thing she had known about me up until this point is that I passionately enjoyed reading. Though I appreciated her thoughtfulness, I do enjoy selecting my own material, but I tentatively put the book the book in my bag. I didn’t pick it up for another few days, and then I proceeded to furiously read and discover probably the best memoir I’ve ever read. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls is amazing.
Although three out of four of the Walls children emerge remarkably unscathed, the extreme neglect and abuse they were subjected to was abominable. Though their parents were obviously mentally sick, I wished in some way that they were held culpable for any of their crimes against their children, and sadly they never are. The family’s story is told by Jeanette and her narrative voice maintains the innocent perspective of youth, and her memories are both harrowing and touching. If you’re a fan of the genre, it’s worth the read. Even if you don’t like memoirs, it’s hard not to be moved by this tale.
I purchased several copies of the book, and now I am the one forcing it onto family, friends and the occasional near stranger. Read it. (less)