Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Reading

 In the past month or so I've been doing a LOT of summer reading! And I've found some good ones, so thought I'd share.

First up, Laura Lippman's "I'd Know You Anywhere". Lippman is a former newspaper reporter who first made her name as an author w/ a series of crime books w/ a private investigator as the main character. (Fun fact: she's married to the executive producer of The Wire!) I've never read those. But this free-standing book was great! The plot is based on an interesting idea: a convicted serial killer on death row, nearing his execution date, reaches out to the "one who got away", a young girl (now a woman) who he allowed to live. The murderer and his would-be victim end up spending a few weeks living together during a pivotal growth period in the young girl's life. The book explores the situation from the point of view of the adult woman looking back on that time in her life, wondering how she became "the one who got away", and how she opts to handle the opportunity or obligation to interact w/ the serial killer once again (at his request). 

Next up, "The 19th Wife" by  David Ebershoff. This story weaves together two plots, one in the current day and one taking place in the 1800s. The focal point of both stories is the role of polygamy in Mormonism, how it "fell" in the late 1800s and how it still exists in the 2000s in small, cult like towns like fictional Mesadale, Utah. Ebershoff's research into the history of Mormon polygamy in America is prodigious, giving the book real strength as a historical fiction novel. He tells the story of real life Ann Eliza, the 19th wife of Brigham Young, and how she apostasized from her family, the Mormon church, Salt Lake City and everything she knew to speak out against pleural marriage, playing a large role in the banishment of the practice from the Latter Day Saints church. The story is completely non-linear and told via fictional personal letters, newspaper clippings, and academic papers from the persepctives' of Ann Eliza, Ann Eliza's children, Brigham Young and academians of the time.

The modern day story is just as interesting. It's told from the perspective of Jordan Scott, a teenager who was kicked out of his polygamous, fundamentalist Mormon town when he was found (innocently) holding hands w/ his half-sister. As he explains it, the men "find a reason" to kick out the pre-teen and teenage boys so that they can keep the young girls for themselves. In short, the plot follows Jordan as he returns to his hometown to help get his mom, the 19th wife of a high ranking Morman man, out of jail where she sits accused of killing her husband. The plot is solid w/ interesting twists and turns. I was even more impressed by the way Eberhoff writes from the perspective of Jordan, a young gay ex-Morman, who knew nothing of the outside world until he was dropped on the side of a rural Utah road 2 years prior. I highly recommend it!

Voyager is the 3rd in an 8 book series. I wrote previously about the first book in the series, Outlander here. I liked it, but didn't love it. I plowed on and read the 2nd, Dragonfly in Amber, which I like enough to continue to the 3rd. Let's face it, I'm hooked now and will read all 8. Well, maybe just 7 because the last one is a graphic novel aka comic book (ick!). The series is mostly historical fiction based in the Scottish Highlands in the 1700s w/ the main characters being a great character named Jamie and his wife Claire. There is a minimal amount of sci-fi in the book - Claire is actually from the 1900s and time traveled (on accident) to 1700s Scotland. Since that first episode, she has time traveled 2 more times. So it's not super sci-fi, you just have to accept time travel, which I'm happy to do! The plot is way too dense for me to explain here. Suffice it to say, there are interesting characters, fun plot lines and an entertaining, quirky writing style. Try Outlander and if you like it, keep on going through the series!

I so enjoyed, Eberhoff's The 19th Wife that I sought out his book, The Danish Girl. I'm about halfway through this one and so far, so good. It's a fictionalized account of the first person to ever have sex reassignment surgery. While Einar felt he was different from others and certainly had more than friendly feelings toward his childhood pal, it never occurred to him (living in the early 1900s in Europe) that he felt more like a woman than a man until his wife, Gerda, asked him to put on a dress as a stand-in model for her painting when her actual model didn't show. Einar enjoyed the experience so much, that he started dressing as "Lili" more and more of the time. Einar is stressed and confused about the situation and emotionally adapts by taking on a "split-personality" mentality- he doesn't always remember actions he took as Lili and when he is Lili he looks at Einar as a relative he once knew, not as himself. I just got to the part where he had sex reassignment surgery to relieve him of his 'man parts'. So far, I've enjoyed the book, especially the complexities of Einar/Lili's emotions and thoughts as well as those of his wife and friends who love Einar and Lilli and just want what's best for him/her (them?) in a very confusing situation. The book will be made into a movie w/ Nicole Kidman (confirmed) and maybe also Gwyneth Paltrow (unconfirmed) in 2012.

Lastly, I'll mention a book I was less enthused about: A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. I don't want to unfairly lure people away from this book- it must have some redeeming qualities that I just didn't pick up on because it won the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Basically the book follows a bunch of self-destructive New Yorkers though childhood, young adulthood (present day), and middle age (future, 2020, including some mild satire of a possible extreme endpoint of our digital age). I never really liked, appreciated, or could relate to, any of the characters, which is probably why I thought the book was ho-hum. They simply weren't that complex- they all basically stereotypes of out-of-control musicians who either makes such bad choices in their youth that their adulthood is ruined as well or continue to make semi-bad choices all throughout life. The multiple characters are only loosely tied together which gives the book a really disjointed feel. Even more annoying, an entire chapter is written in power point slides. Ugh.

To end on a good note....I got a Kindle!! Yea!! The last 2 books I read on my Kindle and it is awesome! After spending an overnight car ride using the 'flashlight' app on my phone to read, Adam decided it was time I have a better solution. My Kindle w/ light case is perfect. We'd been debating Kindle vs iPad (we're definitely an Apple house) but since the main thing we wanted it for is reading, and it's impossible to read from an iPad in direct sunshine because of the back lighting, we went for the (much cheaper, I should add) Kindle. It's environmentally friendly (no more paper books!) and I can download new books from anywhere, anytime. Awesome.

Happy Reading!


  1. Can you get ebooks from the library with the kindle? I am wanting to get a kindle but hav also heard really good things about the Nook.

  2. Ooooooooo thanks for all the good reads!!! I am bookmarking this post to come back to when I get in the bookstore!