Thursday, October 30, 2014

All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr

Title: All the Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
Pages: 531
Published: 2014
Challenges: Chunkster, Historical Fiction, I Love Libraries
Genre: Historical Fiction
Edition: Hardcover
Source: Library

Description: Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure's agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts: I really liked this book, particularly how the author played off the two main character, Werner and Maire Laure.  I came to care about each of them and saw them as individuals who only wanted to survive and I also liked how the author used time shifts within the book: pre-war, during the war, post-war and present day.

Bottom line: Even though it is a long book, it reads like a novel that is a hundred pages less because the short parts within the book and also it allows the reader to become involved with the characters.  Highly recommended.

Rating: 4.25/5

Pages for 2014: 23,535

The Children Act - Ian McEwan

Title: The Children Act
Author: Ian McEwan
Pages: 240
Published: 2014
Challenges: I Love Libraries
Genre: Fiction
Edition: Hardcover
Source: Library

Description: Fiona Maye is a High Court judge in London presiding over cases in family court. She is fiercely intelligent, well respected, and deeply immersed in the nuances of her particular field of law. Often the outcome of a case seems simple from the outside, the course of action to ensure a child's welfare obvious. But the law requires more rigor than mere pragmatism, and Fiona is expert in considering the sensitivities of culture and religion when handing down her verdicts.
But Fiona's professional success belies domestic strife. Her husband, Jack, asks her to consider an open marriage and, after an argument, moves out of their house. His departure leaves her adrift, wondering whether it was not love she had lost so much as a modern form of respectability; whether it was not contempt and ostracism she really fears. She decides to throw herself into her work, especially a complex case involving a seventeen-year-old boy whose parents will not permit a lifesaving blood transfusion because it conflicts with their beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses. But Jack doesn't leave her thoughts, and the pressure to resolve the case--as well as her crumbling marriage--tests Fiona in ways that will keep readers thoroughly enthralled until the last stunning page. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts: Through a number of sources I heard about this book, but I think it was Ann Kingman's excitement on Books on the Nightstand that really impressed upon me that I should read this book.  And I wasn't disappointed.

While the book started a bit slow for me, there was enough of a hook to keep me wanting to read the book; it also didn't hurt that the language used in the book was such that it drew me into the tone of the book quickly.  Even though I didn't enjoy the book from the start, it crept on me slowly so that by the end I didn't want the book to end; it sort of reminded me the course of a piano piece, which starts slowly but intensifies, as one goes through the piece.

I also liked how the writing is almost seamless, as it weaves Fiona's professional and personal life in a fluid and engaging way that it becomes like the piano pieces that she plays and also its a quiet and introspective novel that really made an impression on me.

Bottom line: While the book started off slow for me, the book made a deep impression on me.  I really liked the use of words and was enthralled with how McEwan was able to enraptured me and other readers with this amazing novel.  Highly recommended.

Rating: 4.25/5

Pages for 2014: 23,004

Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë

Title: Wuthering Heights
Author: Emily Brontë
Pages (File Size): 450 (680 KB)
Published: 2012 (first published 1847)
Challenges: Chunkster, E-book, R.I.P IX
Genre: Classic, Gothic
Edition: E-book
Source: Personal

Description: Wuthering Heights is the tale of two families both joined and riven by love and hate. Cathy is a beautiful and wilful young woman torn between her soft-hearted husband and Heathcliff, the passionate and resentful man who has loved her since childhood. The power of their bond creates a maelstrom of cruelty and violence which will leave one of them dead and cast a shadow over the lives of their children. (via ChaptersIndigo)

Thoughts: This was a second re-read for me and probably because I was frantically trying to get the book completed prior to a book club meeting, I was unable to enjoy the book as much as I did the first time I re-read the book.

As much as Heathcliff is supposedly this romantic hero of sorts, I found him to be manipulative and selfish, as I did with the characters of that generation and as a result I had a hard time having any sort of sympathy for them, unlike their offspring, which I had a lit more sympathy for; the parents seemed to play a game of one-ups-manship, almost trying to see how well they could out-manipulate each other.

Bottom line:  This book is one of the best examples of Victorian gothic literature and there is a reason that it is a classic and even though this read of the book didn't give me a great impression of some of the characters this time around, you can see why not only this book has stood the test of time, but also why Emily Brontë would have probably been a very prolific writer in this particular genre, had she lived longer.   I would recommend this book not only to fans of classics, but also those that enjoy reading gothic literature.  Recommended to Highly recommended.

Rating: 3.75/5

Pages for 2014: 22,764

The Story Hour - Thirty Unrigar

Title: The Story Hour
Author: Thirty Umrigar
Pages: 336
Published: 2014
Challenges: I Love Libraries
Genre: Fiction
Edition: Hardcover
Source: Library

Description: An experienced psychologist, Maggie carefully maintains emotional distance from her patients. But when she meets a young Indian woman who tried to kill herself, her professional detachment disintegrates. Cut off from her family in India, Lakshmi is desperately lonely and trapped in a loveless marriage to a domineering man who limits her world to their small restaurant and grocery store.

Moved by her plight, Maggie treats Lakshmi in her home office for free, quickly realizing that the despondent woman doesn't need a shrink; she needs a friend. Determined to empower Lakshmi as a woman who feels valued in her own right, Maggie abandons protocol, and soon doctor and patient have become close friends.

But while their relationship is deeply affectionate, it is also warped by conflicting expectations. When Maggie and Lakshmi open up and share long-buried secrets, the revelations will jeopardize their close bond, shake their faith in each other, and force them to confront painful choices. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts:  I picked up this book due to hearing about it through a number of book blogs talking about the book during the last few weeks of August and being intrigued with the premise of the book, I placed a hold on the book from my local library.

For the most part, I liked the structure of going back and forth between Maggie and Lakshmi and how their friendship developed.  But I did find that the dialect of Lakshmi to be distracting at times, as I wished that the author would have done her in third person as well, but I can understand the need to show some difference between the two main characters and that it helped to show the distinction between the two.  But having both characters would have made getting through the Lakshmi chapters a little easier.

While I liked the story in general, I felt that I could not identify with the characters.  I realize that they were meant not to be perfect, but I did wish that what they did they hadn't done.  I suppose if that had happened, one wouldn't have had a story.

Bottom line: The book seemed to conclude on a satisfying and fitting end.  And would probably recommend this to readers that wish to diversify their reading and also to bookclubs that have an interest in women's fiction.  Recommended.

Rating: 3.25/5

Pages for 2014: 22,314

The Invention of Wings - Sue Monk Kidd

Title: The Invention of Wings
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Pages (File Size): 383 (1.1 MB)
Published: 2014
Challenges: E-book, Historical Fiction
Genre: Historical Fiction
Edition: E-book
Source: Personal

Description: Hetty "Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid.We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.
As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements. (via Goodreads)

Thoughts: Prior to reading, I had heard of Sarah Grimke through a documentary series that aired on PBS last fall about the story the African-American experience and when a group that I follow on Goodreads decided to read the book, I thought that it would be a good time to read the book.  I knew that the story had been fictionalized and did appreciate that the author addressed the fact that there were things that had been changed to suit the story better.

I tended to enjoy Sarah's story more than that of Handful's, even though there were times that I was able to get engrossed with Handful's story at times.  I also felt that the first third of the book was easier to get through than the last 2/3 of the book, which sometimes felt like a bit of a slog at times.

Bottom line: While I found the book to be a bit of a struggle to get through, I did find the story to be interesting and it peaked my interest a little more in Sarah Grimke and would recommend the book to those that have an interest in literature about the abolishment movement and those involved with the movement.  Recommended.

Rating: 3/5

Pages for 2014: 21,978

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Guns of August - Barbara W. Tuchman

Title: The Guns of August
Author: Barbara W. Tuchman
Pages (File Size): 566 (8.7 MB)
Published: 2009 (first published 1962)
Challenges: Chunkster, E-book, I Love Libraries, Non-Fiction, War Through the Generations
Genre: Non-Fiction
Edition: E-book
Source: Library

Description: In this landmark, Pulitzer Prize–winning account, renowned historian Barbara W. Tuchman re-creates the first month of World War I: thirty days in the summer of 1914 that determined the course of the conflict, the century, and ultimately our present world. Beginning with the funeral of Edward VII, Tuchman traces each step that led to the inevitable clash. And inevitable it was, with all sides plotting their war for a generation. (via ChaptersIndigo)

Thoughts: If there was anything that I did like about this book it was the detail that the author included in the book.  I particularly like the chapters that the author devoted on the four main combatants (Britain, France, Germany and Russia) at the start of the First World War in August, 1914 (the United States did not enter until 1917) and the social and political climate leading up to the start of this conflict.

What I did not like was the fact that the author spent way too much time describing things in such detail that I would sometimes literally fall asleep while trying to read the book.  And yet, there were times that I was engaged with the book and really enjoyed those details, so it was a catch-22 scenario.

Bottom line: If you are interested in reading about wars and battles, you probably would enjoy this read.  Recommended.

Rating: 3/5

Pages for 2014: 21,595

Big Little Lies - Liane Moriarty

Title: Big Little Lies
Author: Liane Moriarty
Pages (File Size): 416 (983.7 KB)
Published: 2014
Challenges: E-book, I Love Libraries
Genre: Fiction
Edition: E-book
Source: Library

Description: Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal. . . .
A murder… . . . a tragic accident… . . . or just parents behaving badly?
What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.  
But who did what?
Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:
Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.
New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all. (via ChaptersIndigo)

Thoughts:  I started reading this book not really sure what the book was about or how it would play out, even though I had a vague idea as to what it was about due to a number of reviews I had read.  And due to the good reviews that I read, the book intrigued me and downloaded a copy of the book from my library.

And while it does pull the reader with trying to figure out who did it, I found I wasn't exactly wowed with the book and that couldn't keep track of who was who and the numerous characters that appeared throughout the book.  As a result, I felt as though I lost track of the story.  I also felt that the book could have been a bit shorter than it was, even though the book is readable.

Bottom line: If you are a fan of contemporary women's fiction, you will probably enjoy this one.  Recommended, but only to a specific group.

Rating: 2.75/5

Pages for 2014: 21,029
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