20 June 2008

Little Fugue, Robert Anderson

There is a bunch of rave reviews filling the first couple of pages of the book. And they're about the only thing that made any sense to me. I struggled through the first chapter of this and then gave it away as a bad joke. I couldn't quite work out what was reality, what was imagination, what was metaphor.

The book is apparently about Sylvia Plath, but I didn't get far enough into it to find out anything about her.

I rate this book as a 1, despite the great reviews.

The House in Amalfi, Elizabeth Adler

While I enjoyed this book, it had a lot of false moments for me.

Basic story is two years after her husband's death Lamour is still in mourning. Her best friend decides its time to tell her that hubby darling was having an affair and planning to leave her when he died. This triggers a reaction in Lamour to find out how her father died in Italy some 20 years previously. This was the first false note for me - I didn't get the connection. She heads off to Italy to the house her father lived in, which has been completely untouched since his death. This was the 2nd false note - 20 years later and his papers and diary and the even the house itself are actually still in tact? The story then follows her attempts to find out the truth.

It was an afternoon lost in Italy, but it wasn't a great story, in my opinion. I think author's often understate the impact of time. Twenty years is a LONG time. Yet Lamour can find her way all over the country side without any trouble, which she appears to only have visited for a couple of months as a 7 year old; people she knew over 20 years ago are still handily about; her memories are crystal clear. Maybe its just me, but I'm pushing to remember anything from 20 years ago; let alone people's names that I met only once or twice.

I'd give this book about a four.

The Only Best Place, Carolyne Aarsen

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Right from the get go. What I didn't realise when I picked it up off the library shelf is that it is Christian novel. The faith issue is wound through the story, and it never feels 'tacked on'.

Leslie, married a Dutch heritage farm boy, Dan. She's always lived in the city. Two kids and a couple of years later they run into money issues, and there's an opportunity for them to move back to Dan's family farm for a year. Obviously, a huge move for Leslie, who only agrees to the move because its only for a year.

The story follows Leslie struggle to adapt to the country (including some amusing panic attacks at all the open space); to not working (she's an emergency nurse); to having family living in her pocket all the time (she's from a broken and disfunctional family). It's amusing, it's touching, it's very real.

What I really loved about this novel is that people are people. The Christians have real flaws (and real strengths). Too often Christians are portrayed as wonderful, patient, smiling angels - that certainly ain't the reality of MY life! The 'baddies', particularly Dr John who tries to woo her away from husband and family, are actually really nice people. And I think that's what makes this book work - its full of real, believable people, in real, believable situations.

Aarsen has at least one other book - about Leslie's sister. And I will be looking for that on the library shelves!

I'd probably give this book a 10. If I owned it I could lend it to people going through similar struggles to Leslie.

City of the Beasts, Isabel Allende

Well, I've got a bit behind in my reviews; but here we go.

City of the Beasts is actually a teenage/tween book, obviously misfiled by the library staff. I have read one other of Allende's books. I enjoyed it, but it had strong overtones of "Amercia the saviour of the universe", which I don't enjoy.

This book, City of the Beasts, is set mainly in South Amercia. A 15 yr boy is sent to live with his grandmother, while his mother undergoes chemotherapy. Nana (Kate) is a bit of an odd ball and bundles him off to the Amazon with her. She's a reporter/writer and has been assigned the job of tracking down the South Amercian "Big Foot".

The book has some really heavy environmental protection messages; some really heavy human rights protection messages; and some sterotypical baddies. The messages are probably long overdue. South Amercian environment and native cultures could probably do with some heavy handed protection.

It was an interesting read, but it felt like it didn't really know which genre to aim for. It's not quite fantasy, not quite adventure, not quite eco-story.

I'd give it a about a 3.

13 June 2008

A Poisoned Season, Tasha Alexander

This is Alexander's second book about Lady Emily. I haven't read the first (And Only to Deceive) and they really should be read in order. It takes a while to catch up with who's who in the zoo.

The basic plot is Lady Emily, recently widowed, lives in Victorian England. She gets caught up in a revival of the French royal family (the revolution having happened four or five generations previously). There's a cat burglar who leaves her romantic missives, a murder, scandal, romance, affairs. Lady Emily is a thoroughly modern woman - she's not keen on the trappings of society, has little regard (on the surface at least) for formality and Victorian manners, is studying Greek (why Greek I believe is probably explained in the first novel), and causes scandals without too much effort. In that regard, I found the book at bit disappointing. It reads like a modern novel with costumes.

I was drawn to the characters though. Lady Emily's relationship with her husband is intriguing. There's not a lot of details given in this book, and it left me wondering what happened in the first book. I will probably ferret out the first book, if only to fulfil my curiosity about how all the characters came to know one another.

Rating: 5 - I wouldn't mind finding other books by this author

Book Reviews

One of the things I intend doing, now that uni is finished, is read. Read, read, read. I love reading. I love books. I love disappearing into another world for hours on end; and for the last six years I haven't done nearly enough reading. Well, I've done heaps of reading, but few novels. Although we own maybe a thousand or so books already I try not to buy too many books. Firstly, they're just way too expensive, particularly the way I chew through them; secondly, I don't have any more walls for bookcases; and thirdly, we have a great library system.

When I go to the library I tend to just randomly select books off the shelf. If I stumble across an author I really like I'll go out of my way to find more of their writings. I am limiting myself to borrowing 4 books at time for the moment. Each rack at the library has four shelves, so I'm picking one book off each shelf. If I keep up the reviews, when I've got all the way to "Z" I can go back and find the authors I really like.

My rating system is pretty simple:
10 - I want to own this book
7.5 - I will probably re-read this book at some point in life
5 - I wouldn't mind finding other books by this author
2.5 - I hope the author finds something better to do
0 - I found something better to do