Saturday, April 9, 2011

Handful of Book Reviews

You might wonder what I've been doing during the past weeks since I've had no home computer (and, btw, we don't have TV either, so really I was living like the Amish). The answer is- READ! I've plowed through 4 books in 2 weeks. Here's what I was up to:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett: Bottom Line: Great book, I highly recommend it

This book examines the complex emotional relationships b/t African-American women who work as maids/nannies and their Caucasian female employers (and children) in the South a few decades ago. So I don't give any of the plot away, I'll just say that one white lady ends up working very closely with a lot of the maids in a project that was revolutionary for its time, and put all of them at risk for what they hoped was a greater good. The project was a way to expose the often inhumane treatment of 'the help', as well as showcase the generosity and forward thinking attitudes of a few white employers.

The plot is good, but what really makes this a standout book is the way Stockett tells the story from the perspective of multiple players. From the first page, her prose is engaging, witty, touching. She weaves back and forth b/t deeply emotional situations and comedic relief in a way that makes the book feel light when in reality the topics it touches on are anything but.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

Room by Emma Donoghue

Bottom Line: Great book, I highly recommend it

Another good read, though not quite as hard to put down as The Help. This book is the story of a 5 year old boy and his mother who are captive in a one room shed because the mom was kidnapped years ago. Since the 'Room' was the only place the boy had ever known his mother initially acts as though the room is the whole universe presumably so the boy is content and doesn't realize they are trapped. Eventually, though, she fesses up and we then see how the boy adjusts to this and how the world looks to a boy who (thought/felt) he had everything he ever needed in a 11 x 11 foot space.

The story is imaginative and Donoghue does an amazing job of writing from the perspective of a 5 year old. Since I don't remember being 5, I don't know how accurate she is, but it is highly entertaining nonetheless.

Lit by Mary Karr

This is a memoir written by a poor, rural Texas girl turned alcoholic Northern professor turned sober successful writer (and probably still a professor, I think). This is actually her 2nd memoir- the first addresses her childhood, growing up w/ 2 alcoholic parents resulting in lots of personal and second-hand trauma. I haven't read that one, but will eventually because Lit was great.

This story picks up when Ms Karr is a young adult, just out of college. It takes us through a failed marriage, the early years of mothering, and her mutliple (eventually sucessful) efforts to become clean. Karr's writing style is entertaining, insightful and funny. I have a lot of respect for the way she handles descriptions of people in her life (for example, her ex-husband) with whom she's fallen out. She takes full responsibility for behaviors and mistakes she made in years past and always gives others the benefit of the doubt, probably appropriate when the "offending" party is a drunk.

An entertaining memoir with appropriately funny self-deprication.

Something Borrowed by Emily Griffin

Light, fluffy beach reading, but very entertaining and I finished it in one day (and probably would have done so even if I had access to Internet or TV!).

I'm currently in the middle of:

Mercy by Jodi Picoult- Eh. I've read a few of her books but the only one I'd actually recommend is My Sister's Keeper. I wouldn't recommend this one. I'll let you know if that changes after/if I finish it!

Brief Gaudy Hour by Margaret Campbell Barnes- Not bad. I really enjoy reading (and watching movies about) the Tudor period. I think King Henry VIII, and even more so his wives, are fascinating. I am enjoying this book but there are better ones out there such as The Other Bolyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (fiction) and The Six Wives of King Henry VIII by Alison Weir (non-fiction).

The Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah- I'm listening to this on my ipod as I run. It's light reading (listening?). Not quite good enough to prevent me from getting bored on my run though I don't know if it's fair to blame the book for my boredom! I'll keep you posted.

I tried and couldn't finish: Cutting for Stone, The Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and Dune. I really wanted to like Dune because it's the first of a 6 book series. But, alas, I couldn't get past Chapter 2 and when my husband said it was good but never got any more engaging, I disengaged. Hope this helps you choose some good Spring reading! :)

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