Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Book Report

Well, I had hoped to update my book reports monthly but so much for that. If I weren't so lazy and tech-challenged I would take the time to put my book reports on my side bar. But I am. Sue me. So here's what I've been reading lately:

Non-fiction:

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan. This is a memoir about a woman's diagnosis of breast cancer, which comes at the same time as her own father's diagnosis of cancer. I guess this chick is famous for an essay she wrote about female friendship, which is included at the back of the book. I found the book interesting, but felt that it fell a little short of what it could have been as far as depth.

The Dancing Wu-Li Masters, by Gary Zukav. This one has been on my list for ages. I really like the CONCEPT of it, and occasionally really enjoyed it. But it got a little long and definitely wasn't one I could read in bed or in any state of drowsiness. Sometimes I thought the guy was pushing it a little, the comparison of physics and Eastern religious thought. It got a little hoaky. But interesting.

Christlike Parenting and The Power of Positive Parenting by Glen Latham. I'd explored Positive Parenting before, but that was a long time ago when my kids were in very different stages. This time, the ideas and, especially, the philosophy behind the ideas, were very significant to me. The only problem is that, although simple, it is a lot to learn in terms of training myself to think and act differently. But I heartily agree with this approach and am hoping to implement it more. I think I'll have to re-read this stuff periodically.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin. I sometimes make it a point to avoid the books that everyone is reading, especially if everyone happens to be the women's book groups who loved Tuesdays with Morrie (blech). I hate "feel-good" books. But I didn't read this one, I listened to it as I jogged, and it wasn't too bad. It's the true story of a guy who builds schools in Afghanistan. It definitely gives a good and interesting picture of what life is like in the small villages of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker. OK, once I could get over my biological aversion to the navel gazing inherent in memoirs, I found this very entertaining. But I didn't feel like this chick ultimately succeeded in portraying a real Mormon. Sometimes she got her details wrong (she quotes "I Love to See the Temple"--or maybe it was "I Have a Family Here on Earth"--can't remember which--as an illustration at one point of how she has grown up to view the temple or eternal families--but gets the words wrong!). I'm thinking, "You're trying to make such a big deal about the cultural clash you embody as a Mormon in New York, but I'm not sure you're really nailing the Mormon part of the culture." There are other examples. But it's interesting reading if you have a high tolerance for some squirmy subjects.

Between Parent and Child by Dr. Haim G. Ginott. Another book on positive parenting. Not as good as the others but still good.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I really enjoyed this one, especially the middle section on meditation. In fact, one part of it led to a very important discovery about myself. I've begun meditating formally again as a result.

Fiction

In This Sign by JoAnn Grenberg. Can't remember where I got this recommendation, but I was glad for it. It's a novel about a deaf family and their hearing daughter. Outdated in voice and pacing, it was still a really interesting glimpse into the world of the deaf.

Carmelita by Sandra Cisneros. I really enjoy Cisneros in general, but there is one little section of this book that I will never forget. It goes in the file in my mind of things I wish I had written. It's a little scene in which some children try to see the underwear of a servant girl. Heart-breakingly poignant. Cisneros is a poet writing fiction. Sometimes, though, she gets a little carried away with the poetry. I got tired of the lists and lists of details, though they are colorful, loveable details.

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry. This one kept me reading but was ultimately a little disappointing. I felt that some aspects of the story that had seemed promising were basically dropped. Like the whole reading lace part--it ended up being sort of a non-issue. And it was poorly edited. Nice plot twist at the end, though.

The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale. I know this one is a little controversial, but here's my take. It kept me reading, but not as much as some of Hale's other things. I happen to be in the camp that such a relationship as this cannot not do serious harm to a marriage. I think even if the guy had been a girl, the friendship was dangerous for the health of the marriage. But that's just me.

The Likeness by Tana French. Thanks to Angela for recommending this mystery about an undercover investigator who impersonates someone she looks just like. I kept reading.

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. I actually listened to this one on my mp3 player and it was delightful. I'm not sure how gripping it would have been to me if I had been reading it, but I really enjoyed this sweet story about a woman who falls in love with a man from Australia when they meet in the Pacific during World War II.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. One of my all-time favorites, and one I plan to buy (I rarely buy books). A collection of short stories that are very lovingly character-driven. I was especially interested in the way mental illness is portrayed. Another one I wish I had written. (Hmm. Is that the highest praise I can give? How very egotistical and selfish of me.)

The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Another of the best books I read all year. It's about a white woman during the 60's who wants to collect the stories of the black women who serve in the households of her southern town.

The Treehouse by Douglas Thayer. Thayer's style wears on me after a while, but you can't beat his honesty. I especially appreciated the Korea section.

Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese. Another of my favorites this year. I listened to this one, but it is definitely worth reading. About a hospital in Ethiopia and some boys who grow up there. (Like all really good books, it's sort of hard to get the whole feeling of the thing into one sentence.) Just trust me--it's a good read.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen. I'll save you a lot of time: you can get all there is to get out of this by reading the first two or three chapters. All the rest is just more of the same. It was a disappointment to me--I would have liked to see the changes more significantly impact the plot. Oh, well.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Neufenegger. I felt it was my duty to read this, since it had a ghost as a character. The first half of the book really gripped me but then things got kind of, well, just gross and then I lost patience with how much I was being asked to believe. A disappointment.

Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette by Sena Jeter Naslund. It took a while for me to get into the groove of this one--at first the descriptive language was irritation. But after a while I settled into it, accepting all the details as the kinds of things that the POV character (Marie herself) would have noticed. After that, the book was very enjoyable, especially to listen to.

YA/JF
The Misfits by James Howe. This is probably a fantastic YA book for people who like YA. I myself couldn't finish it. I do actually like SOME YA. But some are so much story, and so lite otherwise. I can't really put my finger on what's missing. I'm sure this is a very cute book.

Sounder by William Armstrong. This is a little book that won the Newberry many years ago--and it reads like it. I mean the many years ago part. We've made some progress as far as voice goes in the last century, I think. But the story is a sweet one, about a poor black son who leaves his family in search of his father who was sentenced to work on a chain gang. Can't imagine kids reading this much today.

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron. A quiet little story about a foster child afraid her new guardian won't want to keep her. Why are so many children's stories about parentless kids? (I ask this as a writer of a book about a girl whose mother is dead.) Anyway, I liked this book IN CONCEPT but found it rather hard to finish.

I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder. Another one I read as research for my own novel since it has a ghost boyfriend for a character. This one is told in verse--but not good verse. The kind that is made when people think short lines make verses. Not much going on here but a simplistic plot but I suppose it is very appealing to teenage girls.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. This is the sequel to The Hunger Games and, like all second books in trilogies, feels like a second book in a trilogy. Still, I read it very fast and can't wait for the third.

1 comment:

myimaginaryblog said...

I always enjoy your book reports. (I've been meaning to do one of my own on my blog but thought it would be boring, but I'm not bored by yours. On the other hand, I can be much more long-winded.) I read much less than you, but there's a tiny bit of overlap in our reading: I read The Tree House, Catching Fire, and spent an evening Googling Elna Baker after listening to her very entertaining story on NPR (I think it was on This American Life) about when she worked in the nursery for the American Girl baby dolls. I came to the same conclusion that you did: that she doesn't come off particularly recognizable as a Mormon if you are one yourself.

Your story has a ghost? Hurry up and revise, I bet it's a great time for publishing ghost stories.

Oh, and in answer to your question in your other post about whether anyone actually has robust health--I don't know, but I do know that mine sure was a whole lot more reliable before I had my 2nd baby than it ever has been again.