It’s Not All Mary Poppins

My Book Binge

Ta-dah! Here is my book binge. What you all do now is publish your lists of books on your blogs, and then let me know in the comments. I will publish the list of bingers tomorrow.

Too Pretty to Die (A Debutante Dropout Mystery)
Susan McBride
A pretty piece of fluff. Mindless way to pass a half-day or so…

You Look Nice Today
Stanley Bing
Tedious account of an office affair gone bad — without even any juicy bits for interest.

Second Glance
Jodi Picoult
Ghosts, ghost-hunters, lost loves and hope. A nice mix, though I found it bogged down around page 80 – 90, once I was through that it moved between past and present, through an intruiging twist, to a hopeful ending.

Bread and Dreams
Jonatha Ceely
What started out with the appearance of historical fiction turned out to be a romance. The surrounding’s and support characters’ only purpose was to further the plot. Unlikely plot event occurred, obstacles were overcome in even more unlikely ways, so that the happy couple could meet their destiny to be together. Meh.

Lament for a Lounge Lizard (A Fiona Silk mystery)
MaryJane Maffini
Maffini takes neither the genre seriously, nor allows her character to take herself too seriously. Thus it’s a fun, tongue-in-cheek read.

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers
Xiaolu Guo
The best thing about this book is how the narrator, a young Chinese woman sent to England to learn to speak English, speaks in her developing English voice. In the foreward, we read of her fears:

And how I living in strange country West alone? I never been to west… What I knowing about West? … That not my life. That nothing to do with my life. I not having life in West. I not having home in West. I scared. I no speaking English. I fearing future.

Touching. The primitive English and fractured grammar only add to its poignancy. In the first few chapters, there are intruiging glimpses into the Chinese culture, all the more fascinating given that the narrator assumes her home perspective and experiences, so you have to infer what she’s accustomed to from the things she perceives as odd in Western life.

As the novel progresses, however, one begins to wonder if what you’re seeing is a window into Chinese culture, experience, and mindset, or whether you’re merely getting a window into the world of a rather disturbed young woman.

It’s an interesting book, but ultimately dissatisfying.

Gatsby’s Girl
Caroline Preston
Biography of hypothetical “lost love” of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Well-told. You can never actually like Ginevra, the spoiled rich girl telling the tale, but you feel for her.

Exercises in Style
Raymond Queneau
An eccentric re-telling of a single brief non-event 99 different ways. It’s not a book you read cover-to-cover, because the “plot”, such as it is, is recounted in its entirety, on the first page and in less than 300 words. (Educated guess. I did not count.) The plot is not the point. The point is the variety of ways a simple event can be retold. Part writing exercise, part humour, it’s a dryly entertaining way to pass a few minutes. A good book to keep in your bag for those times when you have a few moments to kill.

Schott’s Orginal Miscellany
Ben Schott
I was given this book ages ago, and I’m not sure I’ve read every page, but it deserves mention simply because I do dip into it at semi-regular intervals. It’s a collection of facts. Quirky, trivial, interesting bits and pieces of this and that. Containing everything from the Ten Commandments to Boatswain’s Calls, and all manner of miscellanea in between, it’s a great book to annoy one’s spouse throug constant interruptions to his reading. “Hey, love! Did you know that the chemical notation for testosterone is C19H28O2??” (Imagine those numbers as teeny subscripts. I don’t know how to make WordPress do that…)

Lion’s Honey: The Myth of Samson
David Grossman

Round Robin
Jennifer Chiaverini

Sex and Other Changes
David Nobb

David Nobb (could that be his real name?) manages the astounding feat of (respectfully) tackling the serious subject of sex change — with humour. Husband and wife, Nicolas and Alison, become wife and husband, Nicola and Alan. How their marriage, their friendships, their children, their jobs, their sex lives, weather this enormous change is real story of the book. And for all that, it’s an entertaining read. Who knew it was possible?

The Young Mrs. Meigs
Elizabeth Corbett

Fun read about a feisy 80-year-old, with enough true-to-life human passions and the slightest tinge of tragedy to make it less than total fluff. The portrayal of an elderly woman is firm and unsentimental; Mrs. Meigs is a delightful old woman.

The marriage she encourages her granddaughter into is bound to fail, of course: “Married life with Tip O’Neil wouldn’t be a bed of roses. Bot that streak in Cecile which had threatened lately to turn into hardness would ome out as strength now that she was married to the man she loved. ‘She married the man she loved!’ That wasn’t the same thing as saying, ‘She lived happy ever after.’ But it put a woman straight with life.”

Which is utter nonsense, of course. Poor Cecile will soon be very unhappy with the handsome, charming and irresponsible Tip. Sooner if they have children. It’s clear I’m far less sentimental about the omnipotence of love than Mrs. Meigs.

My Sister’s Keeper
Jodi Picoult
You’ll need a half-dozen boxes of kleenex to get through this one. When baby Kate is discovered to have a fatal health condition, her parents decide to conceive another child … to use as a source of spare parts to prolong Kate’s life. When she is 13, after innumerable surgeries, Anna rebels against this role and takes her parents to court to fight for the right to the integrity of her own body. The struggles of the family as this plays out are by turns poignant, tragic, compelling, enraging, and horrifying. I could deal with all that — that’s what the story requires. However, the story did NOT require the ending, and I doubt I will read another Picoult book because of it, I am so offended. I cannot conceive why it was necessary to throw in that twist at the end. Well, no. It was completely unnecessary. Boooooo!

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Paul Torday
Clever and engaging story of the unlikely project to introduce salmon fishing into the hot and arid world of the Yemen. Though it’s seen mostly through the eyes of the lead scientist on the project, the story is advanced through a wide variety of vantage points, including TV scripts, news accounts, emails, as well as two or three different characters. At times social and political satire, farce and romance, it’s a funny, intelligent read with a wistful ending. I liked it.

Julie and Romeo
Jeanne Ray
A light and touching retelling of the Romeo and Juliet story (betcha didn’t guess that from the title, huh?), it’s not deep, but it is funny and satisfying. Julie Roseman and Romeo Cacciamani are sixty-something owners of rival flower shops. When they meet at a small business owner’s convention, their romance (ahem) blossoms in unfriendly soil. Can love triumph over the amassed forces of a three-generation family feud, a secret buried in history, their outraged children, and a malevolent grandma?

The Jane Austen Book Club
Karen Joy Fowler
Not one story, but many, this book recounts far more than the monthly meetings of a book club reading through the works of Jane Austen. You don’t have to have read a word of Austen to enjoy the book, but if you have (and enjoyed them!), you’ll feel part of the club as you read along. You care about the members of the club, and enough ends are left loose that you’ll think about them after you finish the last page. A good read.

As yet unfinished:
Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World
Samantha Power
Biography of Sergio Vierira de Mello. Not far enough into it (page 62) to say much about it, though I know how it ends…

May 31, 2008 Posted by | books | 40 Comments