Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sunshine, Robin McKinley

I read Beauty back during my children’s lit college course and loved it. So I was a little surprised by the much darker themes in Sunshine. I get that it is a vampire story hence the darker themes but maybe I’m just too used to the nice, sensible Twilight vampires.

This book has an interesting hook and I definitely wanted to know the outcome but I found myself skimming pages for plot points ignoring all the many (many!) boring parts that were weighed down with details I didn’t care about. I also realize that I am partial to stories with a romance so it’s not a big surprise that I kept feeling frustrated by Sunshine’s love life. She has a mysterious boyfriend with potentially supernatural tattoos (Awesome! I know, right?) that is kept at arm’s length during the story (we never get details on the tattoos, grrr). The romantic in me assumed this was so we wouldn’t be upset when Sunshine ditches him for the vampire.

Except she never ditches him. She and the vampire just have a creepy pseudo-sexual encounter one time. I can honestly say that if I had read this book at 16 I would have been intensely grossed out by some of McKinley’s more descriptive turns of speech in describing this rendezvous. I’m making it sound a lot worse than it was; it truly was just a page but it was jarring in comparison to the rest of the book. To me, it just came out of nowhere. Anyway, obviously it intensely grossed out 27 year old me so maybe some things just don’t change.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Imagined London, Anna Quindlin

This book has been sitting on my shelf in the vast and ever growing “to be read pile” for some time. Linda and I had started planning another imaginary vacation (it’s never imaginary during the planning and discussing phase but in reality I’ve still never been anywhere) and decided on London with a side trip to Hay-on-Wye (obviously). It got me pulling out my collection of travel guides and this book came to mind.

I’m not a big Anna Quindlen fan but reading this made me realize how much I have in common with her due to very similar reading tastes in childhood and beyond. Basically she loves everyone I love author wise and writes about visiting as many literary landmarks in London as possible. I’ve always wanted to go to London and this book did nothing but increase my frustration at my inability to make any travel plans a reality. Sigh.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa, Nicholas Drayson

This is the first book that I read in 2009 that is on my purchase list (and is not embarrassing to bring up at a dinner party). I had to wait quite a while for my turn on the library reserve list but during my checkout period Mom and Linda both read it as well.

The book is well written, interesting, funny, and suspenseful all without being overwhelming. One reviewer on the back cover blurb compared it to Wodehouse which I agree with in part. There is so much less of the absurd in this book than in the typical Wodehouse title. There are several similar elements: old public school friends with the requisite ridiculous and inexplicable nicknames, evenings spent at a club, bets taken with all the seriousness of legal proceedings, and obscure hobbies (at least to me. Bird watching?). The biggest difference to me was the inclusion of real life problems: political assassinations, people dying of AIDS, crime, etc. whereas Wodehouse’s characters exist in a relatively safe world (as Waugh put it, “For Mr. Wodehouse there has been no fall of Man…His characters have never tasted the forbidden fruit. They are still in Eden. The gardens of Blandings Castle are that original garden from which we are all exiled.”)

I have been recommending it to so many people. It was just what I needed to read; something gentle but of substance with an interesting story with plot twists and suspense but a happy ending all around.

Friday, January 16, 2009

If I Have to Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where's my Prince?, Melissa Kantor

This is one I found at the library and marks my return to young adult literature. During college, I had a children’s literature course with the requirement of reading everyday for 20 minutes (the smug part of me can’t help but remember all of the elementary education majors in the course who were outraged by this requirement. There was no way they had the time to read for 20 minutes and choose their own books. Cruelty!). I loved the project and read (duh) way more than 20 minutes daily in children’s and adolescent literature. It was also what made me think seriously about library science. I would love to be a children’s or youth service librarian someday.

Anyway, I enjoyed this book in a mild way and thought the narrator had a realistic teenage voice. Having grown up in such a normal happy family it is sometimes hard for me to believe that parents can be so horribly oblivious to their childrens’ lives and the parts with the “wicked” stepmother made me feel sad and yet she wasn’t as wicked as many real stepmothers probably are. I was more upset by the narrator’s jerk of a father who fulfilled every afterschool special requirement for a distant father with a new trophy wife who couldn’t be bothered. But in the end the father finally took his daughter’s side and voila! A happy ending all around!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Love Child, Edith Olivier

I learned about this book from a favorite book blog, Stuck in a Book. Knowing that it is a Virago Modern Classic as well made me predisposed to like it. It is a short book with hardly any text on each page. I enjoyed reading it but don’t feel the need to read it again. It made me feel a little too sad (in the quesy way not the poignant way). I think I might need a break from stories involving spinsters with rich imaginary lives; a little too close for comfort perhaps.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Host, Stephenie Meyer

I will admit to a resurgence in Twilight related thoughts since watching the movie version of Twilight recently. My excuse? I am a girl. That is enough of an excuse for anyone to get involved with anything written by Stephenie Meyer. I first read Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse in 2007 one after another after being at a family reunion surrounded by teenage cousins with their faces shoved into the big black shiny books. I have always had a high tolerance for fluff so I enjoyed all 3 books. Then came Breaking Dawn which for many reasons left me wanting to retch and feeling like a colossal idiot for every getting involved in the first place.

On to The Host then. Many of the aforementioned cousins were now enthusiastically reading this next Stephenie Meyer book. I tried to read it after a desperate late night spree at Barnes and Noble (these happen occasionally when my life is just sucking too much- I will go to Barnes and Noble and buy literally anything. Hardback books that I can’t afford, books available at the library, books with horrible reviews, entire series of books that I know nothing about… I’m just looking for anything to get lost in that doesn’t make my brain have to work too much. These trips are pretty hit or miss. Sometimes I end up with horrible drivel that I can’t force myself to finish but it is also how I finally made an acquaintance with Georgette Heyer). I was sure that The Host was falling into this unreadable category and put it down.

At Christmas, Matilda talked me into reading it again for at least 100 pages. Boredom and the flu (thank you first graders) saw me taking her up on the challenge and what can I say. The Host is no worse Twilight. In some ways it is a very similar story; lovers who are forced apart by supernatural weirdness. I have now been trying unsuccessfully to get Linda and Naomi to read it but they are like me pre-second attempt to read The Host and post reading of Breaking Dawn; completely let down by Stephenie Meyer and won’t budge about The Host. I do appreciate Stephenie Meyer’s ability to tell stories that I can get completely lost in and forget about my current reality. Sometimes that is all I am asking of a book and she definitely doesn’t disappoint on that count.


2009 begins as most recent years do for me- deep into seasonal affective disorder, battling some disgusting illness spread by children, wondering if the crumbs of my life from the previous year add up to much, and desperately trying to find a way to make this year be the year. The year for what I am not sure but this run down of my mindset and general unhealthiness is my disclaimer for some of the more embarrassing books that I am about to hold forth on…

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