An enjoyable novel that follows dual storylines, one set during the Civil War and one in contemporary times. Although overall I enjoyed the book, my rAn enjoyable novel that follows dual storylines, one set during the Civil War and one in contemporary times. Although overall I enjoyed the book, my reaction is somewhat mixed.
As I was reading, I sometimes became frustrated that the chapters kept switching between the storylines -- and often ending on a cliffhanger right before switching. I also felt that the relationship between the stories was fairly subtle and so it sometimes just felt like two books in one. On the other hand, I was engaged in both stories and their characters, and I did feel that the overall themes were effectively conveyed by having the dual stories.
After finishing the book, I felt that the ending was a tad pat, a little sappy and "happily-ever-after"-ish. On the other hand, I have felt all day since finishing it like I am still partly in the world of the book, caught up in the slight sense of nostalgia and coziness that it left me with. So on the whole I consider it a successful book in the effect it had on me!...more
An enjoyable novel about family, the immigrant (and children of immigrants) experience, the American West, and the quest for meaning. I liked the twisAn enjoyable novel about family, the immigrant (and children of immigrants) experience, the American West, and the quest for meaning. I liked the twist on the usual children-of-immigrants story in how it combined it with a very American story, that of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the conquering of the American West. The writing is good, with vivid descriptions that capture things perfectly. For example:
America is mostly made up of small towns, and no matter where you go, mountains or seaside or flatness, you will always find, just off an interstate or county road or tucked into a strip mall on a commercial pass, a worn-out-looking Chinese buffet. It might be called the Golden Panda or New China or New Golden Panda Buffet, or just plain Asia Buffet--Oriental Buffet if it's a real backwoods area--the words spelled out in Kung Fu chop suey font or, depending on the economics of the neighborhood, utilitarian block lettering, sans serif. Some of the buildings will have a pagoda look to them, with faux-clay tiles and gold trim. Others will be more to the point: cement, windowless, cheap real estate. They will have rutted lots, signs that say More Parking in Rear. When you open the door an electronic two-tone bell will announce your arrival.
I recommend Pioneer Girl and hope to read more by Bich Minh Nguyen....more
The second in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, this book is definitely light reading, but thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless. Even though IThe second in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, this book is definitely light reading, but thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless. Even though I can't necessarily relate to the experiences or attitudes of the teenage girls in the novel, I got drawn into their stories and grew to care about them and what happened to them. They all have dramatic and intense experiences and emotions during the novel, which, while perhaps a bit overdone at times, feel mostly realistic and played straight to my own emotions. The book is a very fast read: I think I read over half of it in one evening....more
I thought this book was going to be silly and overhyped, so I never read it when it first came out, but I finally decided to give it a go -- and I actI thought this book was going to be silly and overhyped, so I never read it when it first came out, but I finally decided to give it a go -- and I actually really enjoyed it. It is a quick read and very engaging. Brashares captures the world of teenage girls very well, but also manages to get into some deep topics such as love, divorce, and death. Some might say the book is overly sappy or dramatic, but it worked for me. I am interested enough in the lives of these four girls that I would like to read the following books in the series....more
The plot was a bit of a downer at times and it took me awhile to get into it, but by the end I felt like I knew all the characters and I wanted to finThe plot was a bit of a downer at times and it took me awhile to get into it, but by the end I felt like I knew all the characters and I wanted to find out what happened next in their lives....more
I really enjoyed The Loop, a novel about conflict between wolves, wolf biologists, and ranchers in Montana. Nicholas Evans is an excellent storytellerI really enjoyed The Loop, a novel about conflict between wolves, wolf biologists, and ranchers in Montana. Nicholas Evans is an excellent storyteller; in this book he wrote a compelling plot with interesting and well-drawn characters and landscapes, and he brought everything together in a moving and appropriate ending that had some tragedy but was not wholly, unremittingly tragic. It made for an excellent travel book and I will definitely read more by Evans....more
Overall I enjoyed A Widow for One Year, but it wasn't my favorite John Irving. It tended more towards the absurd than some others I've read by him, anOverall I enjoyed A Widow for One Year, but it wasn't my favorite John Irving. It tended more towards the absurd than some others I've read by him, and the plot was winded around without much direction for a long time. I actually got a little bored with it in the middle and didn't feel like I cared that much about the characters. However, by the end, everything came together and I felt that it was a good book in the end....more
I thoroughly enjoyed The Kashmir Shawl, by Rosie Thomas, and found that it kept me far more engaged than anything else I've read recently. It is longI thoroughly enjoyed The Kashmir Shawl, by Rosie Thomas, and found that it kept me far more engaged than anything else I've read recently. It is long (over 450 pages) but I read it more quickly than many shorter books because I didn't want to put it down. The story is an "epic romance" and follows two intertwined plot lines: a woman in contemporary time who discovers a beautiful Kashmir shawl when going through her deceased parents' belongings and sets out to discover its origin, and her grandmother who accompanied her missionary husband to Kashmir before and during WWII. Thomas creates interesting, three-dimensional characters and describes both the places and the character's emotions vividly. I almost felt as if I were there in Kashmir, and I felt connected to and cared about the characters. I highly recommend The Kashmir Shawl! I would like to read more by this author but my library does not seem to have any other books by her....more
Italian Fever was an enjoyable quick read (I read almost half of it in one evening!) about an American woman who has a romantic whirlwind adventure inItalian Fever was an enjoyable quick read (I read almost half of it in one evening!) about an American woman who has a romantic whirlwind adventure in Italy, with a bit of a gothic twist. The storyline was creative and well-constructed and the descriptions were vivid - I felt as if I were there in the Tuscan countryside and in Rome. Unfortunately, it was not quite the sort of book I was in the mood for, although it managed to engage me well enough in spite of that.
The writing was overall pretty good (as I said, the descriptions were great), but I felt that she overused the rather meaningless phrase that someone's eyes "flashed". Additionally there was an overly long vivid scene of the woman being sick - vomiting and delirious with fever - which seemed rather overdone. In fact, I'd say that many of the scenes were overdone and rather unbelievable and that seemed to be intentional, but I'm not sure it quite worked for me.
I read this book because the library didn't have another book I wanted to read by the author - I will probably still read that other one at some point but I can't say that I am eagerly running out the door looking for more books by her. ...more
I thought Summer of the Big Bachi was very good and well-written, but I wouldn't really classify it as a mystery. The story centers on a 70-year-old JI thought Summer of the Big Bachi was very good and well-written, but I wouldn't really classify it as a mystery. The story centers on a 70-year-old Japanese-American gardener named Mas Arai who was in Hiroshima during WWII and now lives in Altadena, near Los Angeles. He has some secrets from the war that end up coming out during the summer of 1999.
There is a mystery of sorts (and a murder) but there is not such a big revelation at the end as I was led to expect from the description. Where the book really shines is in the character development and evocative writing -- it is a book to read as much for savoring the writing and descriptions on each page as for the plot. The characters and setting are portrayed in all their imperfections, and are interesting and complex. There is a film noir-ish feeling to the whole novel and I could really picture everything. I could imagine it being made into a great movie.
It is not light reading -- there are some vivid descriptions of the bomb falling on Hiroshima which were painful to read -- but it is an interesting and engaging book and I recommend it. ...more
I enjoyed The Bookman's Tale, by Charlie Lovett, but I found that it fell a little flat. It tells the story of a young bookseller who discovers an oldI enjoyed The Bookman's Tale, by Charlie Lovett, but I found that it fell a little flat. It tells the story of a young bookseller who discovers an old manuscript that might prove the truth about Shakespeare's identity. The plot line was engaging for the most part and the mystery wrapped up very neatly at the end. However, it was rather predictable and I guessed at two key points (although not a third) well before the end. I also found it a bit annoying that the story jumped around in each chapter - essentially there were three separate storylines going on: the present, Peter's college years when he met his wife, and a historical story of this particular manuscript. In some books this works but here I found it didn't add anything and possibly detracted. My final issue with the book is that the storyline with Peter's wife, Amanda, was extremely painful without being really crucial. When I read in the book jacket that the main character was an antiquarian bookseller recovering from his wife's death, I assumed they were an older couple, but in fact they are only in their early 30s when this tragedy occurs. It just struck me as an unnecessarily tragic part of the story....more
Contemporary family drama is not often my first choice of genre, but I loved The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown. This novel is about three sisters whContemporary family drama is not often my first choice of genre, but I loved The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown. This novel is about three sisters who at around age 30 all end up back at their parents' house in a small college town when their mother is diagnosed with cancer. They each come back with secrets and pain and the novel tells the story of how they face those things. But this description of the plot-line doesn't do the book justice: the writing is what makes it top-notch instead of just your average family drama. The story is told in the first person plural (i.e. "we"), from the perspective of all three of the sisters. This is an usual perspective and I can only imagine must be tricky to get right, but it is very effective. Additionally, the author clearly must be an astute observer of people, because she describes their movements and actions so well. I could really picture all of the characters as live people and each was so distinct. Another reason I enjoyed the book so much is that the author managed to transcend the particulars of the characters' personalities and behaviors to convey some underlying common human experiences. I am do not have much in common with the three sisters (other than age), but I still felt as if I could relate to them in some way. Finally, the sisters are from a family of readers (their father is a Shakespearean scholar) and I loved all the references to the way in which reading was simply a way of life for them. In case you can't tell by now, I highly recommend The Weird Sisters!...more