Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sun Flower and the Secret Fan

by Lisa See.

Quickie recap: Sun Flower and Lily are from vastly different backgrounds but drawn together to be the best of friends - they recount how it was to grow up in 19th century China, through foot binding, and war, seclusion, nu shu (women's writing), motherhood, and above all - friendship.

Quick review: Raw, honest, and simply beautiful.

Quick recommendation: Must read, hands down, get this and love it.

His Dark Materials

by Philip Pullman.
Note: His Dark Materials is a trilogy consisting of: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass.

Quick recap: Lyra, a young girl, is fated to save the world(s). Her father is waging war against the heavens themselves, her mother is guilty of the most sickening of atrocities, her friend is trapped in the world of the dead, and another is causing the world's demise while trying to save it...and you guessed it: they're all somehow connected.

Quick review: These books surprised me by how easy they were to read (for a sci-fi amateur), and how completely they sucked me in. They are well-written, and though the second one doesn't really stand on its own, they're a really great trilogy.

Quick recommendation: I struggle with science fiction, obviously, but after I got over my daemon revulsion, I really, really enjoyed these books.

Six Bad Things

by Charlie Huston.

Quick recap: Henry is having a bad week. He has to dig up his millions of dollars, leave his hiding spot in Mexico, and start running for his life, pausing only to take some (lives, I mean).

Quick review: Fast-paced, heart-quickening, testosterone-ladden from beginning to end.

Quick recommendation: Guy-friendly; if blood doesn't bother you, then bombs away.

The Ice Queen

by Alice Hoffman.

Quick recap: A smalltown librarian is hit by lightning...but amazingly, this is not the craziest thing that's happened to her.

Quick review: Instantly captivating and absorbing.

Quick recommendation: Yes sir, pick this one up.

A Spot of Bother

by Mark Haddon

Quick recap: George suspects he is going crazy, and there is nothing on earth like a family wedding to test that theory to the max!

Quick review: Tender and bittersweet, this family becomes your family - you love them, you hate them, either way you're in it for the long haul.

Quick recommendation: Invite the madness in.

Water for Elephants

by Sara Gruen.

Quick recap: Jacob literally runs away to the circus, and falls in love twice: first with an elephant named Rosie, and second with a married but wounded performer. Life with the circus turns out to be not nearly so carefree as he'd thought.

Quick review: Sweeping and majestic, I admired the style from the first. The characters are endearing, the story quietly emotional.

Quick recommendation: Don't you dare pass this one up.

The World is Flat: A Short History of the 21st Century

by Thomas Friedman

Quick recap: Basically, the world's economy is changing, and if you even pause to blink, you'll be left behind.

Quick review: Hold on to your chair, this sucker will open up your eyes.

Quick recommendation: If you're brave, and have an extra $50 000 hanging around to go back to school with, go ahead and read it. Really, it's good.

The Fearsome Particles

by Trevor Cole.

Quick recap: Poor Gerald - his wife won't cut her toenails and his son has been silent ever since he came back early from a stint in Afghanistan. Gerald seems to think both are equally tragic.

Quick review: Funny and serious at the same time, somehow, this guy tells a pretty decent story.

Quick recommendation: Go for it.

A Short History of Nearly Everything

by Bill Bryson.

Quick recap: It's nearly impossible to summarize nearly everything.

Quick review: I loved it! I feel like I actually learned things (well, relearned a few things I'm pretty sure were mentioned at some point during the 3rd grade).

Quick recommendation: Do you want to know about nearly everything? If so, look no further.

Three Day Road

by Joseph Boyden

Quickie recap: Xavier Bird is returning to his home a changed man - the war has left him dependent on narcotics to escape the pain, and to escape the memories.

Quickie review: Haunting and beautiful, I was deeply moved by this book.

Quickie recommendation: Read it.


by Gary Shteyngart

Quickie recap: "Snack Daddy" longs for New York while trapped in Russia, then subsequently trapped in Absurdistan, where war breaks out for the sole purpose of putting gold into Haliburton coffers.

Quickie review: It took me a while to get into it, but once I gave it a chance, I did find it worthy and funny and tragic.

Quickie recommendation: It's not for everyone. It's almost definitely not for Republicans. If you can overlook the silliness factor, you might actually enjoy it.

True Notebooks

by Mark Salzman

Quickie recap: Mark "volunteers" to "teach" writing at a facility for youth offenders, most of whom are being tried as adults for murder. He is surprised 2 ways, first that he can come not just to sympathize with, but actually like the kids he teaches, and second that they really can write.

Quickie review: Some of the writing is truly astonishing, but it's the relationships that prove to be most eye-opening.

Quickie recommendation: It deserves to be read.

Coal Run

by Tawni O'Dell

Quickie recap: Ivan returns to his small hometown many years after an accident in a mine killed 90 men, and discovers just how deeply the after-effects run.

Quickie review: The story-telling was first class, and it made me such an unselfconscious reader that I could't help but race right through the novel.

Quickie recommendation: Absolutely and without hesitation - this is a good book.

I Feel Bad About My Neck (And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman)

by Nora Ephron

Quickie recap: Nora Ephron, like every other human being, is getting older, and she's sick of books about aging that pretend it's so great to be old. It's not great to be old...but it is pretty funny.

Quickie review: I admire her for lots of reasons; her ability to make me laugh out loud is one of them.

Quickie recommendation: Light and humourous, I can't think of anyone who wouldn't enjoy this book.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter

by Jeff Lindsay

Quickie recap: Dexter is a killer hunting killers methodically until he encounters one that reminds him an awful lot of himself.

Quickie review: I found the first paragraph to be off-putting, and every single other paragraph to be simply enthralling. It was chilling, darkly comic, and I surprised myself by really enjoying it.

Quickie recommendation: Pick it up, but don't read it in the dark if you scare easily.