Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Peony in Love

Quickie recap: Peony is a young girl, betrothed to be married, who becomes obsessed with a play about a girl who loves a man so deeply that she dies of 'lovesickness' and is reunited with him in death. Peony pines for this kind of romanticism but the harsh reality of her arranged marriage haunts her.
Quickie review: I couldn't wait to read this book, or so I thought, because I found myself putting it off. I so enjoyed Sun Flower and the Secret Fan that I knew Peony had a lot to live up to, and I didn't want to be disappointed. And for the first several pages, my heart sank - yes, there was still beauty in the words, yes, the magic of an ancient culture still held me captivated, but I felt that the plot was a bit, well, predictable. But then - wham! I'm sorry I ever doubted, Miss See. This is NOT your average love story after all.
Quickie recommendation: I am glad to say: yes!

The Lay of the Land

by Richard Ford.

Quickie recap: Frank Bascombe (of The Sportswriter and Independance Day) is 55, newly diagnosed with prostate cancer, and newly left by his second wife for a man previously thought to be dead. Frank's been asking himself some very hefty questions.
Quickie review: On the one hand, Richard Ford has been writing significant literary contributions since before I was born, who am I to review a Pullitzer-prize winner? - but on the other, well, I am the girl who said Moby Dick could kiss my ass. But the truth is, Frank Bascombe is like an old friend, and in this case, familiarity breeds intimacy. I haven't an unkind word to say about this book. Frank clearly lives in this world, where relationships flounder and parents fail and everyone eventually wonders why, and reality isn't always pretty, but that's okay. It's okay if life still has sharp edges because it's real, and so is this book, and I think Ford still has the touch for showing us how things really are.
Quickie recommendation: Fully.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

Quickie recap: The Garcia girls immigrate to the U.S. with their parents, and the family struggles to adapt to a new country without losing their culture or their values. This is both easier and more difficult than it seems.
Quickie review: Interesting, written in a backwards outside-the-box kind of way, a nice book to get lost in for a while.
Quickie recommendation: Sweetly satisfying.
p.s. Thank you to Molly and Genevieve for turning me on to the Garcia Girls.

The Man in the High Castle

Quickie recap: In an alternate 1962, Germany and Japan won WW2 and the former United States is struggling under the new powers. A cold war of a different sort has emerged, and the political climate anxiously boils around the release of a controversial book that presents an alternate universe where the Allies had won the war.
Quickie review: I loved the variety of characters, the interconnectedness, the cheekiness of the novel-within-a-novel. All very cool.
Quickie recommendation: Two thumbs up, buddy.

Before I Wake

Quickie recap: Sherry doesn't die. By all means she should have died in the hit-and-run, but she didn't. But the man who hit her is still haunted, and her parents' marriage still fails - and, oh yeah - you'll get a real kick out of what Sherry does do.

Quickie review: I had previous read some less-than-stellar reviews of this book, but still picked it up because I liked the premise and quite frankly, people are morons and are wrong all the time. Luckily, it seems that Wiersema's readers were right - this is a book worth reading. The first few pages hugged me tight, and left me wondering - where can he go from here? But page after page, I was delighted that he was able to sustain the tone, and the pace, and the sense of wonder and anticipation. He deftly pulls together many voices from many biases and out comes this cohesive, lyrical story that refuses to be type-cast.

Quickie recommendation: Without hesitation.

More Stories to Make You Blush

by Marie Gray.

Quickie recap: Stories in varying degrees of a pornographic nature (eg: a security guard watches a woman jack off in a dressing room on successive occasions).

Quickie review: Well, I blushed. I blushed in embarrassment from the author's continued use of cringe-worthy cliches. I did not blush in arousal. I couldn't even stay interested. If sex was really this derivative and unimaginative, I'd be a nun.

Quickie recommendation: Pass!

Salt Rain

Quickie recap: When Allie is sent to live with her aunt after her mother's mysterious disappearance, decades worth of family secrets begin unravelling: when life is this complicated, it will take a lot more than rain to wash it all away.
Quickie review: It's a strange and particular kind of pleasure to run across a piece of fiction that manages to just feel authentic - sufficiently complex in character, and yet achingly simple in sentiment. Hats off to Armstrong for accomplishing what most first time novelists only dream of.
Quickie recommendation: oui.

A High Wind in Jamaica

by Richard Hugues

Quickie recap: The Bas-Thornton children survive some extreme weather in Jamaica only to be sent back to England by their parents. Not long after the boat departs, the parents receive a cable from the captain telling of the children's demise, but in truth, their adventure is just beginning - aboard a pirate ship, no less.

Quickie review: I didn't have high expectations for this book, so I was quite surprised to find myself enjoying and anticipating it. It is engaging, in parts quite swashbuckling as you might expect, but it's best when recounting the life of piracy according to a 12 year old girl. You'd be surprised.
Quickie recommendation: Surprisingly, yes.