Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane - DiCamillo

This is a wonderful story about learning to love. I listened to it on audio CD, read by Judith Ivey--who did an outstanding job. The audio is only 2 hours--so I highly recommend it even to those who are time-challenged.
2006, 198 pp.

Rating: 4.5/5

Friday, January 26, 2007

Atonement - Ian McEwan

This was not an easy book to read. It is in three parts, of which I found the first to be the most difficult to get through. By difficult I mean slow, detailed, and plodding. There is very little dialogue throughout the book. Most of the writing consists of the characters' inward thoughts and feelings.

It is a story about Briony, who at 13 years old accuses a family friend of a horrible crime. This occurs in Part 1, which takes up half the book. The aftermath of that accusation, along with the characters' involvement in World War II make up Parts 2 and 3. I don't like reading about war, but I actually liked this part of the book the most. That was a surprise to me. By the end, Briony is 77 and reflecting on her life events and how they have affected her family.

Overall, I didn't enjoy this book very much, but I am glad I read it. I'll probably read at least one more book by this author before passing a final judgment.
2002, 351 pp.
NBCC - 2002

Rating: 3.5/5

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency - Alexander McCall Smith

This is a light, fun, easy read about a lady detective in Africa. Read this for lighter fare after you've read more serious or depressing novels. It is a very funny book. I wouldn't necessarily label it a "cozy", though, because there were a few elements that would disqualify it. I definitely plan on reading more about Precious Ramotswe.
2002, 235 pp.

Rating: 4.5/5

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See

Wow!! This is an amazing book. It is a story about women in China and their relationships to their families, husbands, and each other. They must first obey their father, then their husband, and then even their son. Their feet are bound to become more "marriageable"--the smaller the foot, the better the marriage prospects. We're talking about 7 cm here! The lives of these women were very harsh, and some were unbearable. Their hardships, work, pain, and desire for love came through very vividly in this novel.

I recommend this book be read by all women.

2005, 258 pp.

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Angle of Repose - Wallace Stegner

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972. It is a story about family, marriage, and even American history. Susan Burling Ward, an artist from the East, goes West with her Western mining engineer husband to "begin a new civilization". Their struggles with each other, with outsiders, and the land itself are chronicled by Lyman Ward, their grandson who is a retired history professor. As Lyman ends their story, he realizes certain parallel struggles in his own story and wonders how he will overcome them.

I enjoyed Stegner's writing very much. I thought his portrayal of Susan was very convincing. I enjoyed his grandparents' story a little more than his own just because there was some s*xual dialogue used that I don't care for. These were few and far between though, and I do plan on reading more from this author.
1971, 569 pp.
Pulitzer - 1972

Rating: 4/5

Friday, January 5, 2007

The Rebel Bookseller by Andrew Laties

Review coming soon.
Read in October 2006

2005, 262 pp.

Rating: 3.5

The King's English by Betsy Burton

Review coming soon.
Read in October 2006

2005, 302 pp.

Rating: 4

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Review coming soon.
Read in October 2006

2004, 247 pp.
Pulitzer Prize - 2005

Rating: 5

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee

Review coming soon.
Read in November 2006

2006, 216 pp.

Rating: 4

O Artful Death by Sarah Stewart Taylor

Review coming soon
Read in September 2006

Rating: 3

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Review coming soon.
Read in September 2006

2005, 406 pp.

Rating: 4

The Time Traveler's Wife - Niffenegger

I really, really loved this story. Had it not contained quite a bit of graphic s** and lang*age, it would have received at least a 4.5 rating. As self-evident from the title, time travel is involved. Henry cannot control when and "when" his time travel occurs. This makes for some very interesting situations! It is a great love story, and it did make me cry. That hadn't happened in a long time. I highly recommend it, but I sure wish some of the graphic content would not have been there.

Completed September 2006
2003, 518 pp.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Parchment of Leaves & Clay's Quilt - Silas House

Both completed in September 2006. I enjoyed these books because they gave me insight into the people where I live. The stories take place in central Kentucky. Parchment of Leaves is first chronologically, followed by The Coal Tattoo, and then Clay's Quilt. I discussed these as part of a book group. It was interesting to hear their perspectives as most of them are from this area, while I am originally from Colorado. Anyone from Kentucky or with roots in Kentucky should read these books. I plan on reading The Coal Tattoo this year or next.

Clay's Quilt 2001, 292 pp.
Parchment of Leaves 2002, 278 pp.

Rating: 3.5/5 for both
Parchment of Leaves 2002, 278 pp.
See review above.
Duplicate post to account for having 2 books in one review post.

Red Leaves - Thomas H. Cook

Thomas H. Cook is a favorite author of mine, so I was anxious to read this book. I was a little disappointed, though. This one really doesn't measure up to Breakheart Hill or Edgar winner The Chatham School Affair. I would start with one of those if you haven't read Cook before.

Completed in September 2006
2005, 289 pp.

Rating: 3.5

Plainsong - Kent Haruf

Completed in September 2006. Words cannot describe how I hated this book. I wanted to like it--I really, really did. I guess the only reason I did want to like it was because it is set in northeastern Colorado where I grew up. I cannot imagine my grandparents reading this novel; they would be disgusted with it if they did. Haruf may have lived and taught in the area, but he DOES NOT get the people or community right AT ALL. When I think of the place where I was raised, I think of people similar to the characters in Gilead or in Peace Like a River. I get angry just thinking about how much I hated this book. To top it all off, Haruf likes to "be different" and "get creative" by not using any punctuation marks AND by using a multitude of asinine run-on sentences.

Now, I did hear that the Hallmark movie was good. I may actually like it because I suspect they took out the parts I hated. Well, I know this is a scathing review, but it was well-deserved.
1999, 301 pp.

Rating: 0.5 (only because it got published!)

The Sparrow and Children of God by Mary Doria Russell

Wow, are these books thought provoking! Missionaries in space! Hard questions for God! Can I use enough exclamation points?! I read these in September and October of 2006. Some parts were VERY difficult for me to read because they were more graphic than what I am used to. Highly recommended, but not for the squeamish.
The Sparrow 1996, 408 pp.
Children of God 1998, 438 pp.

Rating: 4 for both
Children of God 1998, 438 pp.
See review above.
Duplicate post to account for having 2 books in one review post.