Monday, June 29, 2009

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

I bought this on a recommendation from a few internet folks, so I was almost worried that it wasn't going to be good (I've gotten a few bad books based on internet recommendations before.)
So when I picked this one up to read it, and it immediately grabbed my attention, I was very relieved. This is a really great book about the history of a five hundred year old Jewish religious text. You get to see it in the present (sort of: 1996 and then 2002) and you also get to go back in history and find out where every trace of its history came from and how it happened to get there. The book is structured so that every chapter shows a different time in the books history. In the present, there are several pieces of evidence that are recovered from between the pages: a butterfly's wing, some salt crystals, a wine stain. Each of these traces gets revealed to the reader, so that we see the people behind this book and what they went through to make, and save it, so that we, in the present, have the opportunity to see it and gain some of its knowledge.
I loved all the different people who came into the existence of this amazing text; the librarians who saved it multiple times from destruction, the Jews in Venice who hid it, the slave who drew the illuminations that made it so unique.
I definitely recommend this everyone. Its a great historical fiction that will make you think about the way different religions mix and mesh now and through history.

Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman

This was my very first Gaiman graphic novel and it was odd/good. This novel is a collection of stories about Dream, Despair, Death, Destiny, Delight, Desire, who are all god like creatures; except they're not the gods of anything, they just are the thing. My favorites were probably Dream, Desire, and Destiny. The artwork in all the chapters was amazing, mostly straightforward in the first chapters, towards the end very frenetic and chaotic. I loved how the art all matched perfectly with the story, which seems like it might have been difficult, considering the wide ranges of the stories and the six differnt artists, but it all flowed nicely, even the more chaotic chapters.
I'm biased though; everything that Neil Gaiman does is great. He is superbly imaginative, thoughtful with his characters and stories, and there is always more to his writing than meets the eye.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Stroke of Midnight by Laurell Hamilton

This is the 4th book in the Meredith Gentry series.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs

This is another of Burroughs memoirs, this one specifically for his father, or so it says on the cover. I never read Running With Scissors so I wasn't sure what to expect. I thought it was going to be darkly funny, based on seeing the movie of his first memoir, but it turns out this one was just dark.
He opens the book with a fast paced, scary, and exciting scene of his father chasing him through the woods at night; he never says why this is happening, neither here nor when the scene gets retold later in the narrative. His father does not catch him, that's the most important thing about this scene, as the reader is led to believe that he might be seriously hurt if he were caught. There is some vague notion that this chase is in response to something Augusten has said or done, but that is never confirmed. Needless to say, this is what really got me hooked on the book, and made sure that I wasn't going to want to put it down.
This book basically chronicles the early childhood of the author and how horrible it was made by his sociopath and possibly homicidal father. He and his mother stayed in Mexico for a while with one of her friends, just to get away from his father, because, according to his mother, he was "dangerous." As a child Augusten never understood what his mother meant when she said this, but later in his childhood, he began to figure it out for himself.
The end of the book is about Burroughs' adult life after moving away from his parents. Augusten was always terrified of becoming like his father, and would actually pray that he would never end up like him. Burroughs succeeded, for the most part. He did develop a drinking problem later in life, and was constantly trying to keep that secret from everyone in his life. Burroughs had always talked about his father being two different people: mean, violent, and worse in private, yet in public he was none of those things. And now Burroughs himself had developed that mask as well; to the world he was a funny, smart, responsible guy, but at home he drank to extreme excess and lived in filth.
I liked this memoir. I don't think it taught anything, really, other than to not become like him or his father, but I guess I shouldn't expect it to teach me anything. It made me cringe to read, because I had no way to relate to any of his life, but that's probably what made it so interesting. I wouldn't recommend this to people with weak stomachs, some of it is very hard to handle.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Finished on the second try. I starting trying to read this in high school, and did not get past the first hundred pages. This time, I really got into it, so I was able to finish it. It took me about a month and a half, primarily because I was really busy last month and just did not have the time.

I really enjoyed this amazing love story. Jane starts her life with no parents, left to live with an Aunt who hated her and cousins who routinely and continuously beat her up and harass her. She lives there for the first, and awful, ten years of her life, then gets shipped off to an atrocious boarding school called Lowood, by her Aunt Reed. This school is very cold and hard, she gets very little, and very poorly prepared, food while there. There is also Mr. Brocklehurst, the benefactor; he enjoys berating the girls for their "sins" all the while enjoying the finer things in life for himself and his family.
She endures the school, and manages to do well enough to become a student teacher after being there for 6 years. She teaches during her last two years at the school, then decides to leave for good when the headmistress leaves the school. She finds employment for herself as a governess at the Thornfield home, taking care of the master's ward. She starts to love living at Thornfield, being free and somewhat independent. The master of the house, Edward Rochester, is an odd man, not terribly handsome, but kind to her in his own way. They begin to develop feelings for one another, despite their age gap and differing social statuses.
I think I'll stop with the synopsis there, cause that's the point when all the juicy and intriguing stuff starts happening. I came to love this story very much, despite having trouble the first time I read it. Bronte has a way with description that makes reading a pleasure; sure you have to find the rhythm, but once you do, its a breeze. Vizualising everything is so easy when the author takes the time to really show you what they mean. And I love the love story between Jane and Rochester. Its not easy, it doesn't happen too fast, and you can really see that they truly are in love, not lust, like so many modern stories about love. They have real, deep feelings for one another that allows them to be apart for so long, then be able to come back together and not really have to work to rekindle the emotion. I definitely recommend this to everyone, ever. Go read a classic love story, then tell me what you think of all the modern ones.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

This is a reread for me, but it was just as good as the first time I read it. I also realized that I was mistaking Fforde's altered version of Jane Eyre for the real one. I, for a moment, thought that Jane actually went to India John Rivers, and then I saw the Masterpiece Theater movie version, and had to smack myself in the forehead.
I love this book. Fforde is extremely witty, and his subject is one that is close to my heart, so I'll always be in for reading his books. Thursday Next is a great character, a strong woman, with values, and she almost never relies on anyone else for anything. All the surrounding characters are flushed and wonderful, and the story never gets boring. I recommend this to anyone and everyone. Its a great story with loads of great little jokes.