Friday, September 12, 2008

Reading List

I've gotten a bit behind on my reading list... there are about 10 books to be reviewed and added to the list... will get around to it one of these days...

Rating: Excellent (*****), Very Good (****), Good (***), Mediocre (**), Poor (*)

Perhaps I take my role as a reader a bit too seriously (as I am merely a Stay-at-Home Mom of two pre-schoolers), but here goes: the following is a list reviewing all novels I have completed (as of the year 2008 and forward).

Between, Georgia (Good ***)

The Pillars of the Earth (Very Good ****)

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle was excellent. Loved it--definitely a story that stays with you. It's a little bit difficult to get into at first, but it's worth it. Excellent (*****).

Other books I enjoyed reading (since beginning of 2008):

Kristin Hannah's Firefly Lane was a bit cliche and predictable at times, but entertaining in a "Beaches" sort of way (if you like those kinds of friendship stories). Good (***)

Galaxy Craze's Tiger Tiger is a fairly entertaining novel. It's a story of a mother and daughter's tumultuous journey from an unstable home life in England to an even more unstable life in a cult (as well as the daughter's journey through young adulthood). Don't know if I would want to read more of this author's work. Kind of Good (** 1/2).

Carolyn Parkhurst's Lost and Found was pretty good. I was not too into the soap opera-like drama and the multiple narrators, but the author continuously redeems herself by exploring a deeper perspective on life and its common struggles. Good (***).

This novel by Billie Letts didn't impress me much...From the very beginning, I was hoping this writer had more talent than this limiting story revealed. Mediocre (*1/2).

This is the first book by Anita Shreve that I have read, and it was enjoyable. Although it took me a little while to get used to her writing style, it was still a fast, satisfying read. I'm interested in reading more of her novels, particularly Sea Glass and Pilot's Wife. Very Good (****).

Run was just all right. Page long paragraphs and a not so spectacular plot kept me waiting for more...though the last few chapters were pretty good. Overall, Anne Patchett's writing style tended to ramble and drone a bit too much for me to want to read any more of her novels. Okay--Good at the end (**+1/2 ).

The Mermaid Chair, by Sue Monk Kidd

Sue Monk Kidd is a gifted storyteller, possessing the rare ability to pull her readers into the preexisting world of her novel--in all its depth and clarity. Fictional, yet still powerfully real, I was irresistibly consumed by the lives of her characters, and completed the last 1/2 in one sitting. Excellent (*****)

Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan

A great historical novel. Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiasts will love the architectual details, as well as the provided insight into the historical figure's personal life. Told from the fictional perspective of his true-to-life mistress, this story also reveals a glimpse of what life may be like living with someone who experiences bouts of hypomania (and/or bipolar disorder). Developed from more than 7 years of research and creative insight, this novel left me feeling curiously intrigued. Click here for more info on F.L.Wright's work, as well as pictures of the structures described in this novel. Very Good (****)

The Memory of Water was great. I want to read it again, and I'll definitely read more novels by this author. It spoke to me emotionally without being too sentimental and melodramatic, and though it had 4 narrators (4 characters speaking in first person), it worked. One of the characters has bipolar disorder, and for anyone who has experienced the struggle of loving someone with bipolar disorder, this book hits the mark. Very Good (**** +1/2)

Beside a Burning Sea required effort for me to complete, because though the plot was engaging, the presentation of the story was a bit one-dimensional. The author's intent to create a romantically poetic drama resulted in a novel with too much sappy dialogue and descriptive detail. In other words, I really wasn't too impressed with the author's writing style--it felt too much like summarizations and lacked the depth required to pull me into the world within the pages of the book. The engaging aspects of this novel included its historical setting in the South Pacific during World War II, in which 9 survivors of a sunken hospital ship are stranded on an uninhabited island. The plot focuses on how and if they get off the island, as well as the love developing between some of the survivors. Ultimately, it is a love story... just a bit too "overdone" for my tastes. Okay (**+1/2)

Crazy Ladies is a fictional story told by 6 women in Tennessee, beginning in the 1930s and ending in the 70s. The reading feels a bit disjointed (due to the chapterly narration change), until around the tenth chapter when all seems to flow smoothly (yet deliciously bumpy at the same time). Dorothy, the "craziest lady" in the novel, is sadly intriguing once the rest of the "ladies" in the novel tell their side of the story. The author repaints each decade using bits of history (and other snapshots) to cajole the reader's memory banks back into time. Good (***)

The Feast of Love was perhaps a 2 1/2 to 3 stars (out of 5)...I wasn't all that impressed. There were a couple of gripping chapters in which everything hit the mark (chapter eleven, especially), but nothing was really too consistent. Each chapter was the narration of one of 5 characters, and even though this sometime can work, I felt it just made the story choppy. I kept with the book only because I kept waiting for something more...

I loved reading Molokai, and did not want it to end. It is a great story, and though sad, it doesn't have the "tear jerker" quality one has to be in the right mood to read. It is more of a story of endurance--of the heart and of a culture. I also want to learn how to speak Hawaiian now, because of all the vivid cultural history as well as the lyrical beauty of the language as it is shared in this story. (*****) Excellent!

Carry Me Home has a "Forrest Gump" style protagonist (with a potty mouth) that is endearing and to be admired on issues regarding family, friendship, and compassion. Good (***+1/2)

Entertaining and well written, yet sometimes drags a bit during over-analysis of mundane issues. Not sure Empire Falls deserved the Pulitzer Prize. I kept my eyes peeled for Pulitzer-prize material, and was disappointed. Okay (** +1/2)

Great entertainment, including history lessons on World War II from the candid perspectives of the wives of soldiers. The Future Homemakers of America is a great read one can pick up and put down for a while, yet not lose interest. Good (***)

The Girls is a fictional yet realistic story of conjoined twins: the rare bond between the sisters and the story of their upbringing from birth to death. Good (***+1/2)

Ann B. Ross presents Fannie Flagg style storytelling with all the southern charm. Good (***)

Graphic account of a young addict's life; read "Beautiful Boy" first, and this one will be easier to swallow. Also, the parallels between "Beautiful Boy" and "Tweak" will be more apparent if read in this order, since the former has a more structured series of events as told from the eyes of an addict's father. Both are memoirs (true stories). I'd give both a Very Good (*** +1/2)

Both the Kindness of Strangers and Angel's Rest are tear-jerkers. I loved them both, despite the sadness factor, because both were such beautifully told stories. Both novels are Excellent (*****).

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