Thursday, June 02, 2011

Book reviews - April and May

Okay here are April & May's books/reviews:

and the shadows took him, Daniel Chacon.
A young Hispanic boy lives his childhood as he is moved from California to Oregon while his father struggles to become a respectable middle class man in a very white town. This was really good. The characters popped out - they weren't cliches, and their fights and frustrations felt real. It was a bit predictable in parts, but I couldn't stop turning pages on this one.

A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages, Kristin Chenoweth
this book turned me into a bit of a stan for her. It reads just like how I think she would speak, despite having a ghostwriter. There's a surprise visit by Mister Writer (aka Aaron Sorkin) in the book. Their romance is really the reason why I picked it up. I lent this out to my coworker Jess who reminds me a lot of her.

Tipping the Velvet, Sarah Waters.
This is a novel set in Victorian England, following the career of Nan King, a young woman who falls in love with a performer who appears in men's clothing. She follows her off to London, and ends up on an odyssey of love, sex, and politics. I don't think all the foreshadowing was necessary, but I found this a genuinely enjoyable book. It tugged at my heartstrings a little bit.

Working for the Devil, Lilith Saintcrow.
I picked this up for the cover art alone, and tried to read it in March. It didn't grab my attention so I set it aside. Picked it up again a few weeks back and I found it more intriguing. I liked that Danny was a tough chick who kept insisting that she didn't need any help -- she comes to realize that she needs to let others inside at other points. I did see the twist at the end coming, but it didn't make it any less poignant. I will probably continue the series.

Sixty One Nails, Mike Shevdon
Claiming to be "Neverwhere for a new generation," I picked it up. I was not impressed. Sure, it turned pages, but the Gary Stu narrator couldn't be interested in a woman who wasn't stunning looking -- she shapeshifts to match his ideal of beauty. I was more interested in the world building, which was pretty well done. But stick with Neverwhere if you want a really good "wrong side of the tracks" fantasy story.

Bury Me Deep, Megan Abbott
One of my favourite books this year, actually. This is a novel set in Arizona in the 1930s. A small town girl moves with her troubled doctor husband to Arizona. While he leaves her to go practice medicine on miners in Mexico, she ends up with some wild friends and embarks on an affair with a prominent town leader. Somehow it goes awry and she ends up in the middle of a giant mess. Incredibly chilling and frightening.

Naamah's Curse, Jacqueline Carey
I love her worldbuilding, but I can't help to draw parallels to her other big heroine, Phedre. I know, I have to stop, they're not the same person. Moirin is a pretty plucky heroine, but I don't know if I'm a big fan of the follow the man all around the known world in order to be reunited" theme, but I do enjoy how Moirin basically convinces everyone ever to sleep with her by merely existing.

Telex from Cuba, Rachel Kershner
I didn't think I would get along with this at first. I had to look up "telex" and it's a slightly more advanced form of telegraphing, and a prior take on fax machines. They're still in use today, according to Wiki. But this is the story of several American families in Cuba -- working for the fruit companies and the mining companies that were robbing the Cubans blind. It was an interesting look at the women and children of the American execs who are forced to play nice with the other white people on the island because they are isolated. I didn't really care for the French terrorist/Cuban escort section (her name was Rachel K). But overall, I definitely found this book very interesting.

Blue Nude, Elizabeth Rosner
Rosner is from Schenectady NY, which is why I ended up picking this up after I set it down a few times. It's the story of two foreigners - Danzig, an art professor who has lost his interest in painting, and Merav, an Israeli artist's model who was in their Army in her youth. Rosner writes about painting and modelling, but it's about the fallout from World War II, even a few generations removed, for people of Europe and Israel. Very worthwile read.

Jellicoe Road, Melina Marchetta.
GO. Read this book. You will not be disappointed. I can't adequately describe this book without spoilerizing it, so go.

A Northern Light, Jennifer Donnelly
You guys, a book was set in my home region! No, I'm serious! This one is simply amazing and made me cry. Set at the turn of the century, a young girl has dreams of going to college and learns a new word of a day to keep her mind limber. But life in the North Woods isn't always that simple and she has to decide between her ambitions and her family.

Best quote:
"Why did little towns in Herkimer County never get a mention in anyone's book? Why was it always other places and other lives that mattered?"

This made me nearly cry. I've always felt this way, and it's part of why I bought this book -- it's set near my home, and I can feel the story -- I can smell it, I can taste it, I can feel the heartbreak, and I know that even though it's set 100 years ago, it's still the same.