Friday, February 28, 2014

winter reading list and a selfie

My shortest list ever! Well, since I've been posting my reading lists anyway. Could not find the time or the attention to read much this winter. Of course, I was pretty busy what with the holidays and work.

The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy - This book took me forever to read and not because it is an epic as it is only 320 pages but because I really don't care for her writing style.  I found it tedious, incomprehensible at times, and there at the end was scanning through whole paragraphs, whole pages.  Lots of phrases as sentences.  Lots of Capitalized Words.  Lots of references to the Event where Things Can Change in a Day.  Her timeline starts at the present and jumps around in the past and then the present and so forth until the story is finally told.  And the story is a tragic one involving loving the wrong person resulting in deaths and banishments and destroyed childhoods.  Set in India, it is tale of a family...two-egg twins who are spiritually attached, their mother divorced from her drunken abusive husband, their uncle divorced from his American wife, their grandmother, and their grand aunt...and the event that destroyed them all and what and who drove it.  Now that I have finally finished it, I have to admit that it is a good story and well constructed.  It would have been easier for me to read and perhaps more enjoyable if it had been 'cleaned up a little' for lack of a better way to put it.  But that says more about me than the book really.

The Hiding Place by David Bell – A 7 year old girl, Janet, is sent to the park with her 4 year old brother by themselves for the first time ever. When Michael, the boy she is enamored with, also shows up she is distracted and loses sight of her brother who goes missing. His body is discovered weeks later and a man is accused and convicted of his murder. Twenty five years later, the man who has always denied his guilt, is out on parole and a stranger shows up on the doorstep of the now grown Janet claiming to know what really happened on the day her brother disappeared. The detective who worked the case and Janet are no longer so sure that the man convicted of her brother's murder is guilty especially when Michael returns after being gone for 15 years asking Janet if she remembers what really happened that day. She begins to question if her brother actually died but was perhaps spirited away. When the boy's body is exhumed and a DNA test shows that it is indeed her brother she also learns that her father is not his father. Armed with this information, she confronts her father and then Michael's mother and the story of what happened that day and how her brother died finally comes to light.

And The Mountains Echoed... By Khalid Hosseini - A convoluted tale of a family of poor Afghans living in a small poor village. We are introduced to 12 yr. old Abdullah and his 4 yr. old sister, Pari, whom Abdullah has raised and cared for. Their mother died in childbirth so Pari's care fell to Abdullah, their father being too tired after a day of hard labor to do what needed to be done. Eventually, their father remarries and starts a a new family and while their step-mother treats them well, her love is reserved for her own child. Soon, Abdullah and Pari are permanently separated. Pari is sold, cutting off a finger to save the hand, to a rich woman, Nila, who cannot have children and who thinks a child will fill the emptiness in her heart. Pari is young enough that she eventually forgets her birth family but the event puts a permanent hole in Abdullah's heart and he eventually runs away, abandoning his father and step-family. The tale marches forward through time as each character's story is told...Nabi, the step-uncle who brokers Pari's sale for his employer and his wife in Kabul; Parwanna, the woman who becomes step-mother to Abdullah and Pari; Pari with her mother after they move to Paris never to return when Nila's husband has a debilitating stroke; the two young cousins who lived across the street from Pari's house in Kabul and who fled Afghanistan during the war times and then return to try to re-claim their family property; the Greek doctor who now lives in Pari's old home and works with a relief agency to help repair the wounds of the wars; and others. Finally, the story circles around to another Pari, Abdullah's daughter whose parents made their way to America, who receives a call from her namesake. The elder Pari is in her 60s with children and grandchildren of her own before she learns the true story of her life before Nila and reaches out to try to finally reconnect with her brother, to fill the hole in her own heart that had no name.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – I had no idea what this book was about when I asked the library to put me on the wait list. All I knew was that there was a lot of chatter about it and it had been made into a movie. It's a very good book. It is the story of a young German girl whose mother is turning her two children over to child services because she cannot care for them though we learn later that she is being taken away as a communist. Liesel's brother dies en route, he is buried and upon leaving the grave, Liesel picks up a misplaced book off the ground, The Gravedigger's Handbook. She is eventually delivered into the hands of her new family that live on the poor street in the small town on the outskirts of Munich in Nazi Germany. It is the story of her life from the time she arrives at 9 until the events that precede her 14th birthday. She makes a life for herself and indulges in her passion for books and reading by stealing as many as she can get away with. But the story is also about her relationship with her new family and with the young Jew who shows up at their house one night, the result of a promise made by her foster father during his service in WWI, asking for help. It is also the story of Liesel's friendship with the boy her age that lives next door and the one that develops between her and the mayor's wife. It is a story of love set in the middle of one of the worst expressions of human behavior in history. Given that it is a story narrated by Death, I should not have been surprised when I realized the ultimate end of things but somehow I was.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett – a Japanese businessman is lured to a poor South American country in the hopes of getting him to build a factory there by throwing him a lavish birthday party which he only grudgingly attends because the entertainment is his favorite opera singer. Halfway through her performance at the vice-president's house where the party was being held, a small revolutionary group consisting of 3 men and a cadre of young people including two girls, burst in with the intent of holding the president hostage in order to obtain the release of political prisoners. Only the president declined to attend at the last minute because he preferred to stay home to watch his favorite soap opera. Instead of making an escape while it was still possible, the generals decide to take all the men and the opera singer hostage instead. As the days turn into weeks and the weeks turn into months, the story turns around the opera singer and her effect on the entire group and the relationships that develop between the hostages and their captors. The end is predictable, of course, and the story is really about these relationships instead of whether or not the revolutionaries succeed but quite a bit of the story is about the glorification of opera and this particular soprano which I found a bit tedious.  


  1. I like Bel Canto quite a lot, but must agree on the God of Small Things.It also took me some time to read that one.

    I always look forward to your book lists, Ellen.

  2. Like you, I found Bel Canto tedious--to the point that I never finished it. Now, The Book Thief I really enjoyed. I haven't read the others and honestly they don't sound like the type of books that would hold my ADD attention span for long.

    Nice selfie.

  3. I have started throwing a few selfies in since you started.

  4. I also had trouble with The God of Small Things and didn't persist. I might try again at some point. I've enjoyed the other books by Khalid Hosseini and hope to give this one a shot also. A couple of others have spoken well of The Book Thief. Another one for my list. Thanks. :)

  5. I checked out a young adult book today to try and get rolling. All I read these days are blogs.

    You look nice.

  6. I have read Bel Canto and liked it if not loved it. I read The Book Thief and felt that same. Good books, but did not stay with me for days.

  7. You've read several that I've been meaning to read, like "The Book Thief" and "Bel Canto." So I appreciate these reviews!

    I loved "The God of Small Things," though I read it more than ten years ago and don't remember much about the specifics. I only remember the creepy OrangeDrink-LemonDrink man.

  8. I loved The Book Thief - the narrator did a great job on the audio version. I'm listening to The Stonecutter now :)

  9. I really enjoyed The Book Thief when I read it last year but I think I may give the Hosseini one a miss- I've read two of his, one I really enjoyed but the other I found just too convoluted.


I opened my big mouth, now it's your turn.