Thursday, October 01, 2009

My head hurts.


I figured I'd do a comprehensive recap of the books I've read this summer. I'm sure i'm missing some because all I did was grab the stack of books I have by my bed that I know I finished but didn't write up.

Golden Country by Jennifer Gilmore:

This book I picked up out of a $1 sale at Borders. I don't think it's anything I would have picked up if I had to pay more for it, but that's why I love this sale.

This book is the story of three immigrant families in Brooklyn in the 1950s. The protagonists are all Jewish Eastern European families whose children grow up and intermarry. It's really interesting to see the different sociological structures that come into play when you get to meet them. (Sorry, I read this book early on this summer, I'm not as quick to recall it as when I first read it.) But I think even for more than a dollar I would pick up this book again.

Petropolis, by Anna Ulinich:

Sasha is the child of a Russian woman and a half-black, half-Russian scientist. She and her mother are abandoned by her father when she is small, and she grows up idolizing her absent father. Suddenly finding herself a teenage mother, her mother sends her to Moscow to go to school and raises the child as Sasha's sister. Sasha instead joins a mail-order bride service in order to sneak into the US and find her wayward father. She finds a lot more than him when she gets to the US, though.

This is absolutely riveting and hilarious at the same time. Definitely worth the read.

My Answer Is NO (If That's Ok With You) by Nanette Gartrell.

This I also picked up for a dollar. I don't usually do self-help books, but this one I keep finding myself going back to. I have a hard time saying no to people, at least without feeling bad about it, and this book understands that. It's really good with real life examples and concrete psychological reasons to explain why I (and other women) feel this inability to say no without guilt. Definitely incredibly worth the read. I found it incredibly helpful this summer while working as an assistant manager at my store.

Malinche, by Laura Esquivel.

I had high hopes for this book. I paid a dollar for it as well, and I know Esquivel's other major novel, Como agua para chocolate, at least in movie form. I'm incredibly familiar with the source material, and I know the story of Malinche. I was horrifically disappointed in her take on her. I don't know if it's the English translation screwing the pooch or that it was just THAT. BAD. It was short so I powered through it.

The Lady Elizabeth, Alison Weir.

Last time I did a book review post I talked about Alison Weir's Jane Grey novel, and how I was slightly disappointed in it. I said then that I looked forward to this one to see if her fictional works had improved.

I did find it an improvement. I still find her dialogues to be a little stilted (I'm a little biased because most of my own writing is dialogue. I like to tell, not show ;)), but her characterisations are improving. Elizabeth is as fascinating a character as history can make her, and I truly enjoyed reading her life from her "own" perspective. I liked it better than Innocent Traitor.

(Side note: Weir is publishing a biography of ANNE BOLEYN, guys, ANNE FREAKING BOLEYN. How AWESOME is this book gonna be????_

Ok, just three more, I promise.

The Shipping News, by Annie Proulx.

I read this book years and years earlier, way before I had even considered visiting Newfoundland. (Yeah, that long ago.) So when I found this book @ Goodwill for a buck, I had to save it and re-read it. I knew the basic storyline -- guy loses his cheating slut of a wife in a car accident, and moves with his two daughters to his family's ancestral home in Newfoundland.

Having been to the island and actually having taken much of the same journey that Quoyle did, it puts this book in a whole new light. The whole time I was reading it I felt incredibly homesick, for a place I've never even lived in and only visited twice in my life. She did the island and its people justice. It's definitely one of my top ten books of all time. And if you haven't visited Newfoundland, I STRONGLY encourage you to do so.

Another book I picked up for a dollar: East of the Mountains, by David Guterson.

I read Snow Falling on Cedars probably about the same time that I read The Shipping News, so I only vaguely remember that I enjoyed the book. This time out was no exception. Guterson describes Washington state pretty well, although I've never been there so I can't say for sure. I didn't read the jacket insert that describes the book, or I don't think I would have picked it up. It tells me that it's the story of a man who is on a deathwish going hunting in the woods and all the strange people he encounters that make him want to live again. Sounds hokey, but Guterson pulls it off. After a while, though. It took me about 75 pages in to even really care about Ben, and it took til the end for me to sit there and say, "Hey, this book wasn't so bad after all."

Finally! Last book. FOR NOW DUN DUN DUN.

The Widow of the South, by Robert Hicks.

This one JUMPED off the store shelves at me. I wanted to read this one so much just from the back cover alone. It's a novel based on a real person, Carrie Winder McGavock. Hicks gives her a motivation for her devoted service to the cemetery at Carnton.

Too bad that it takes until the bad guy wants to plow over the graves of the Confederate soldiers, nearly 2/3 of the way through the book for things to click. Neither Carrie nor Zachariah, the solder whose leg she amputates, are that interesting of a character.

I'll admit a caveat about this. I keep trying to read Civil War stuff like Cold Mountain and i just. can't. get into it. I don't know if The Widow of the South suffers from that problem or if it's just a bad book. I need unbiased opinions ;)

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