Sometimes you pick something up without knowing much about it, and this is the case here. I will however tell you right away (in the interests of tranSometimes you pick something up without knowing much about it, and this is the case here. I will however tell you right away (in the interests of transparency) that I have a nodding Twitter acquaintance with Ms Leduc, who lives in my city. Local literary circles are really not that big, and you kinda get to know who the players are.
So based on that, and the fact that I like supporting local artists (can't let you NYers have all the fun of discovering the hot new talent), I picked up "The Miracles of Ordinary Men". A local writer, from a local publisher, in a local independently owned bookshop. It's not my usual thing. I don't care for overt christian symbolism in my fiction. Dual narratives I'm on record for being whiny about. I could give you a fistful of reasons why I shouldn't have liked this novel. And yet, I did.
Leduc's prose flows like a summertime creek, burbling along, in no hurry to get where it's going. The dialog is realistic and most of her characters are anchored and believable, a must for a piece like this, which is so open and airy that only the characters themselves give it weight.
We explore redemption in this thought-provoking piece, as the characters struggle with both becoming and unbecoming, with life, death, and metamorphosis. The author also manages to keep a curtain drawn on her personal beliefs, remaining ambiguous right to the last word. We are left knowing change has happened, but it is modestly left to the reader to decide where we have gone.
All in all it's a worthwhile read, but with some warnings. There is violence used in a sexual context, which may be upsetting to some readers, for various reasons. And the entire work is built on a framework of christian symbolism, so those who are uncomfortable with that will probably not find this enjoyable. Those who enjoy philosophy, armchair musing on the nature of mankind, or christian themes (minus the dogma) will find a rich platter of food for thought in this novel.
Advanced Reader’s Copy: Anticipated publish date: Jun 18 2013 by Atria books, a division of Simon and Schuster
”We all have a tree inside us. FindingAdvanced Reader’s Copy: Anticipated publish date: Jun 18 2013 by Atria books, a division of Simon and Schuster
”We all have a tree inside us. Finding it is just a matter of time.”
In 1979, the people of Iran rose up against the Shah of Iran, who was seen by many as a dictator, and as a puppet of the western powers. They succeeded, and in the political chaos that followed, Ayatollah Khomeini was invited to return to Iran, and asked to found an ”Islamic Republic”. In the years after, the Ayatolla consolidated his power, and in effect, installed an Islamic Theocracy, imprisoning and terrorizing opponents.
This is the setting of Sahar Delijani’s debut novel. In it, we leapfrog from one life to the next. The tree that is this novel grows, rooted in the blood and brutality of the notorious Evin Prison, spreading out, limb and branch, through the social ties that bind us all. Daughter, lover, friend: the echoes of revolution take generations to fade, and the scars are passed along, imprinted on the lives that follow, like fingerprints on clay.
Delijani’s prose is intricate and lovely, reminding me somewhat of Toni Morrison, and like Morrison’s work, this requires slow, careful reading. This is a novel to be savored slowly rather than devoured. However, the transitions from one character to the next could be smoother, incorporating more clues to help keep the relationships straight. To be honest, I needed a map of the relationships; by the time I got close to the end, there were just so many, and I think it’s harder for these western eyes of mine to track the names that seem so exotic to me.
I’ll expect to see this one crop up on a lot of Reading Lists and Book Groups over the coming year, between the exotic setting, the social relevance and delicate literary touch....more
As most of you have surely noticed I generally read in the genres, science fiction, fantasy and the historical eNow for something a little different.
As most of you have surely noticed I generally read in the genres, science fiction, fantasy and the historical end of things- biographies and historical fiction. This novel is pretty firmly what book snobs refer to as "literary" fiction, as opposed to "Genre Fiction".
lit·er·ar·y /ˈlitəˌrerē/ - Adjective Concerning the writing, study, or content of literature, esp. of the kind valued for quality of form.
lit·er·a·ture /ˈlit(ə)rəCHər/ Noun 1 - Written works, esp. those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit: "a great work of literature". 2 - Books and writings published on a particular subject: "the literature on environmental epidemiology".
I get annoyed by this distinction, as if a novel or story has less value because it's science fiction, horror, or worst of all- popular. Stupid book snobs. Not that there aren't Genre snobs who are just as bad on the reverse end. But I like to remind people every once in a while that "1984" is Dystopian, "Alice in Wonderland" is high fantasy and "Pride and Prejudice" is actually a romance novel.
Unloched however is much harder to pigeonhole. The story is told in a slightly flowery, slightly formal language i've often seen used by authors courting the "literary" title. But in this case it doesn't distract or detract from the work, and it's smooth and flows well.
The story is almost purely character driven. It hinges on an event in the far past, understood differently by each of our three main characters; the twins and their mother. Their relationships with each other are unhinged by the separateness of their experiences and their inability to communicate those experiences isolates them from those who once were closest.
Overall it was a good read, and Lemon-Scott draws you in emotionally to the point where you want to yell at the characters or bang their heads together. The real interest however lies in the exploration of how differently we each experience events, and how those differences can change not only who we are, but who we are perceived to be. ...more
Taking a step outside of my usual genres I picked this up on a whim after seeing the newest instalment "A Dublin Student Doctor" on the shelf at the lTaking a step outside of my usual genres I picked this up on a whim after seeing the newest instalment "A Dublin Student Doctor" on the shelf at the local library. Me being me, I tracked down this first volume in the series first though, and was happy to find that is wasn't the heavy historical I expected. Instead I found a light, comedic read detailing the foibles of the entitled Doctor and residents of the small village in the north of Ireland that he serves.
Each book also includes a glossary of "irish" words and phrases, (some of which I smile at, as more than once i've seen use of a phrase heard as a child from older relatives) and a bonus chapter with a few recipes tucked in, so if you like lamb (i'm allergic, oddly enough) it might be worth your while to flip to the back of the book.
It's not laugh-out-loud material, but it's nonetheless very amusing in an endearing and almost sweet way. Taylor treads the line of nostalgia with a careful hand, never letting the material get saccharine, or tip into silliness. He also sidesteps talking of The Troubles, with only a mention here and there of the oddity that in this village, Orangemen and Catholics play together rather well. It is after all a fantasy setting, and the conflict and sorrows of the Troubles has no place in our innocent, simplistic setting. The writing itself is also kept simple, even the medical descriptions being kept at a level that anyone can understand, making this a nice choice for restful, recreational reading for anyone from a simple housefrau to older members of the medical profession who'll smile in recognition at the silliness of some patients.
The later books in the series do trend away from the comedic settings a bit, as the character's storylines gather speed and take slightly more serious turns, but overall the series never loses it's charm. Definitely worth picking up as a break from heavier material or as a gift for readers in your life who enjoy nostalgia or are uncomfortable with racier materials.
So my sister-in-law recently discovered Jodi Picoult, and has been urging me to read some of her stuff. I'd always rather dismissed this author. May hSo my sister-in-law recently discovered Jodi Picoult, and has been urging me to read some of her stuff. I'd always rather dismissed this author. May have something to do with the fact that I generally find her novels displayed distressingly close to the Harlequin Romance section in the book store, a section that I speed through out of both distaste and a wish to not be caught dead there. But since I do trust her taste in all matters except technological (she's sadly fallen into the Cult Of The White Box) I decided to re-assess and chose one of these pop novels to read. "Plain Truth" caught my eye as to this Techno-UrbanDweller, the Amish have always held a certain allure.
And I enjoyed myself.
Picoult spins a good yarn. Not very intellectual it's true, but then the Literati tend to get on my nerves when they get too obtuse anyway. The lady knows how to write a page turner. This is the epitome of a "fun" read. No deep themes, no overly complex characters, not even a truly exotic setting. It's just a well crafted story that is meant to entertain and no more. And that's FINE. It's like choosing a movie to watch, sometimes you just want something light and easy that isn't either the heavy docu-drama or the summer blockbuster full of explosions. This is exactly that.
I'll probably keep an eye on Picoult's work from now on. I found it made a great "palate cleanser" after a heavier read. Definitely recommended for non-book-people who may occasionally want something to read. Ladies, include one of these in a spa-day package for your BFF's birthday!
This is really more of an epic poem than a novel, and to be honest, it just wasn't to my taste.
The use of the group over individual is an interestingThis is really more of an epic poem than a novel, and to be honest, it just wasn't to my taste.
The use of the group over individual is an interesting concept, but I find it more off-putting than anything else. I Just don't like the idea of grouping such a large and varied group of people as a single unit like that... it feels weird. ...more
I'd seen a few reviews on this one floating around so I grabbed it, despite it's place on the romance shelf, because I wanted something lighter to reaI'd seen a few reviews on this one floating around so I grabbed it, despite it's place on the romance shelf, because I wanted something lighter to read after the recent rash of histories. And while it is light, and it is a romance, it's not really a puff piece either.
Anna Davis takes us to London in the flapper era to meet Grace Rutherford, junior copywriter by day, and Diamond Sharp, acidic social columnist by night. And that's probably the least complicated thing about Grace's life. Through her eyes we look at how easy it really can be to fool one's self, about who you are, what you want, and where your obligations to others begin and end.
The characters are sparsely drawn, but the interest lies less in the characters themselves or even the plot, but in the complex interweaving relationships between them. "The Jewel Box" is a spider's web of love, loss, and indecision that highlights our often illogical reactions to others in our relationships. The somewhat dry writing style is relived by the insertion of the "Diamond Sharp columns" that are witty and almost catty voice of our heroine's alter ego, and together the leave us with a nicely balanced whole.
Overall it's a fair attempt, and while not on my must-read list it's a fairly good littl enovel worth the read if there's nothing more pressing in the stack. ...more
The adage is that the book is always better. Now I'm enough of a realist that I recognise that this isn't always true, but in this case I found the boThe adage is that the book is always better. Now I'm enough of a realist that I recognise that this isn't always true, but in this case I found the book because of the soon-to-be-released film, so hey, it's all good. "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" with the astounding cast list including Judy Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton and Celia Imrie, is due for release in the UK next month, and the trailer sent me hunting.
Looks awesome, and I cant wait for worldwide release. But in the meantime we have the book which is fantastic in it's own right, although not as much of a giggle-fest as the film looks to be. I find that sort of thing doesn't work as well in text anyway. Moggach's writing is light and easy, although this is definitely one for more mature audiences. Somehow I doubt many people under thirty would appreciate this one.
We start off in London, where an overworked doctor of Indian extraction is driven to exasperation when his grotesque father-in-law moves back in with him and his wife. She hunts madly for a new "Home" for him, but at this rate they've all heard of him and wont take the old lecher on. One visit from a wheeler-dealer relative from Bangalore later and an idea is born. And so Dunroamin, an ageing hotel leftover from the days of the Raj shifts from low end B&B to a residence hotel catering to elderly Britons. Lured by the low cost of living, the residents learn to deal with new people, a new culture, and manage to wake themselves from the lethargy of being alone too much.
The contrast is drawn subtly, between the pictures of elderly invalids who transform back into real people with nothing more than sunshine and social interaction. But the neglect of the parents by their children is not the whole story Moggach is telling. In the interactions with their adult children, the message is clear... we neglect our parents needs because we're neglecting our own.
In the insanity of modern life we struggle for the material things. Private schools and soccer lessons, the newest designer handbags and Apple's latest toys. We work so hard to keep up with the Joneses that we're too distracted to realise what's going on inside ourselves. So we go to Yoga and have affairs, trying to fill the gap and never realise what we're missing is the connection each other. We're lonely because in the rat race the other rats are competition, not family... even when you're sleeping with them. ...more
In "The Language of Flowers" we have a fantastic example of how well a divided storyline novel can work. We leap back and forth on the timeline of ourIn "The Language of Flowers" we have a fantastic example of how well a divided storyline novel can work. We leap back and forth on the timeline of our heroine's life, between the current situation and the traumatic events that "now" is rooted in and never lose a moment of clarity. This is normally not a style of writing I enjoy, but here it is logical, clear, and the plot moves with every line rather than being a series of digressions.
Victoria Jones is a result of the failure of the foster care system, suspicious and isolationist. Finally at age 18, she is aged out of the system... and after a month in a halfway house she is expected to become fully independent and live on her own. Because turning eighteen magically makes you into an adult with all your shit together, right? Right?
A wonderful exploration of healing, communication and trust. A reminder that not all of us communicate the same way, and that for some, trust is the hardest thing they'll ever learn to do. ...more
First, for everyone who saw the tag "fantasy" and went "ewwww, elves" sit yer butt back down. This is not that type of fantasy fiction. You people andFirst, for everyone who saw the tag "fantasy" and went "ewwww, elves" sit yer butt back down. This is not that type of fantasy fiction. You people and your silly boxes. *shakes head* This is more closely related to "Urban Fantasy" but even that isn't bang on. What we have here is an interesting little hybrid of UF, Historical Fiction, Romance... oh hell, just go get this one and read it.
The plot pits two young magicians against each other in competition, basically Art versus Science. The rules haven't been explained to either of them. Indeed, they aren't even told who their opponent is. Our setting is the Circus, and the goal is merely to win. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Too simple. It's always easiest to get lost where there arent any landmarks.
The descriptions are lush without going overboard. The author leaves just enough room in them to let your mind conjure the images to suit your own tastes. We're paced at a slow stroll, giving us all the time needed to look around, imagine, and admire the settings, and believe me, you'll want to. However, it may turn off folks who prefer to see a lot of plot pushed, young adult readers may find it drags for them.
Special thanks to my cousin (who's name i wont use as I dont know her preferences in these things) for recommending this one to me.
Fictional memoirs really do seem to be all the rage these days, and The Irresistible Henry House , while a good read and superbly written, is tragicalFictional memoirs really do seem to be all the rage these days, and The Irresistible Henry House , while a good read and superbly written, is tragically flawed. Henry House is a "practice baby" raised in a university home economics teaching facility. Sounds bizarre, and something I wasn't aware actually happened, but apparently it was a fairly widespread practice.
Grunwald draws you right in with an emotional center that is a saving grace here. Loose ends, stray references, actions that dont seem to lead anywhere... to me that better reflects reality, after all in who's life are the plotlines all drawn up into neat little bows? Life isnt neat and tidy, even when you're raised in a Model Home that would do Donna Reed proud.
However, about midway, the plot takes a major derailment, as Henry's career takes an absolutely magical path that would make Uncle Walt himself declare it as "too unrealistic". It's badly jarring, particularly to anyone who knows anything at all about the world of animation. To be honest I found it annoyed me beyond reason. If only this one aspect of the novel had been tamed into something more believable, this could have been a five star review.
That said, I'll be exploring Ms Grunwald's other work a bit to see if this is an inherent flaw, or simply the tragic loss of what could have been a great novel. ...more
I did not finish this and probably wont. It's gimmicky and annoying and if there's a plot it's buried deeper than I can be bothered to look for it. ThI did not finish this and probably wont. It's gimmicky and annoying and if there's a plot it's buried deeper than I can be bothered to look for it. The writing isnt bad, just the disjointed style, may look out for a more traditional novel from this writer. ...more
Often I avoid things that have been hyped too much to me, so I admit to avoiding this novel after seeing it everywhere. I picked it up because well, iOften I avoid things that have been hyped too much to me, so I admit to avoiding this novel after seeing it everywhere. I picked it up because well, it aint easy for a a first novel to rocket to the top of the NYT Best Sellers list. There had to be something there... And so a few nights ago when I couldn't sleep I flicked past it on the ereader again and decided to give it a look.
Wow. Shilpi Somaya Gowda grabs you right off the bat and just doesn't let go. In her open, almost brazen style, she leads us through the tangled web of global life, where cultures don't just clash, but knot together in tangles that take generations to harmonize.
The white woman loves her Indian husband, but cannot embrace his culture which seems frighteningly alien and complex to her. The husband who never takes the time to teach either her or their adopted Indian daughter about that culture- too deeply sunk in the western cult of success. The daughter who doesn't fit into either world, raging and rebelling until finally she comes to understand that there is no need to choose.
Gowda forces an acknowledgement that racism and sexism still exist, just on a level so subtle and complex half the time we dont even realise the quiet ways it shades our cultures. Perhaps it's more apparent when one contrasts the "American Way" with the older, more intricate culture of India.
Immigrants from all over the world cluster more and more tightly in microcosms of their own nationalities here in the west. They are considered suspicious, their way of life under fire, attacked for not surrendering their cultural identities and languages. Perhaps the message here is one that needs to be heard. You can, and should be both.
And yes Mother, I know you hate the smell of curry. Shut up and sit down, I love me some Chicken Korma. Pass the Naan. ...more