Saturday, August 28, 2010

summer reads

I realize it's not quite the end of August yet, still three more days but I'm not likely to finish another book by then. In fact, I can't believe I read 14 this go round, especially since this quarter included all the g'kid visits and I only read during meals and before bed. Oh and then there's the sleepless nights. I read then too. Guess I've had a lot of sleepless nights this quarter.

So here's my take on some reading which I know you are waiting for because my opinion is, of course, intensely interesting.

Judge And Jury by James Patterson and Andrew Gross – I actually liked this one a lot. Better than I thought I would. A gangster is on trial and manages to escape after having the entire jury killed and there follows a manhunt by the FBI agent and the lone survivor of the explosion that killed the jury and her son.

Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini – it's very rare these days for me to get a book I have a hard time putting down, but this was one. Located in Afghanistan, it is the story of a rich (by comparison) kid and his servant/lesser caste best friend, his betrayal of same. He and his father leave Afghanistan for America when the Russians move in. Eventually, as an adult he returns and finds that the two families lives were entwined in more ways than one.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides – interesting read that covers three generations of a family of Greek descent who immigrate from Turkey. The storyteller is the daughter/son, the third generation, a hermaphrodite, genetically male who was raised as a girl, thinks of herself as a girl and discovers during puberty that he is not. It's his story but he starts with his grandparents who are actually brother and sister.

Mystic Rebel by Ryder Syvertsen – I was enjoying this little story about an American who agrees to fly medical supplies and money into Chinese occupied Tibet, is shot down, rescued by Tibetan nomadic freedom fighters who he lives with while he learns the language and comes to love the country. Then it turned kind of stupid when he is dug out of an avalanche by an evil worshipping cult who attempt to turn him into an assassin to send against the Dalai Lama, blah blah blah. It has an OK ending.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini – Another tale that takes place in Afghanistan, same time frame as Kite Runner, but this time about two women, girls really at first, and their lives. Not a pretty picture although there is a happy ending for one of them but only after years and years of misery.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards – a very ponderous read. Page after page after page of the father, mother, son going on and on and on about the distance between them. OK, ok, I get it, the secret destroyed the very thing that the father was trying to save. Now get on with the story. Which is that a doctor unexpectedly delivers his wife's twins one snowy night with the help of his nurse. The second baby, a girl, is born with Down Syndrome and he hands the baby to his nurse with instructions to take her to an institution and tells his wife the baby died. The nurse cannot leave the baby at the institution and leaves town with the child and raises her. She sends updates and pictures to the doctor but refuses to tell him where they live. It's a good story but I would have enjoyed it a lot more without all the constant mental anguish.

Demon Seed by Dean Koontz – stupid. Stoo-pid. A computer AI takes over a computerized house with plans to take over the world after it becomes born into an altered human body.

The Honey Thief by Elizabeth Graver – unsatisfying. I wanted a better ending when it really had no ending at all, except maybe a glimmer of hope for better for the characters. About 3/4ths of the way through I'm yelling at the mother to get over herself, get a freaking grip. Maybe I need to go back to popular culture paperbacks for a while instead of literature.

What The Dead Know by Laura Lippman – I enjoyed this one. It's sort of a mystery. Two sisters aged 11 and 15 disappear one day from the local mall. Thirty years later a woman involved in a traffic accident claims to be one of the missing sisters and then clams up to protect her privacy and leads the police on, giving them information that cannot be backed up or checked out. Eventually the story unfolds but it has a little twist at the end that I did not anticipate and a good resolution.

Nights Of Rain And Stars by Maeve Binchy – one of my favorite authors, I love the way she weaves her characters together and then weaves her books together with these characters. The books are not sequels but independent stories. This one was the back story of a character that featured in the previous book of hers I read. It takes place in a small Greek village on a small island.

Altar Of Eden by James Rollins – a fairly entertaining story about genetic experimentation gone bad with a little romance thrown in. A ship full of 'altered' animals is found floundered on the bayou coast of Louisiana and before more than a few of the animals are removed, it explodes. Then begins the search for the perpetrators who are ruthlessly covering their tracks.

Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich – the further misadventures of Stephanie Plumb, bounty hunter.

The Ark by Boyd Morrison – an OK read about a madman who wants to purify the earth by wiping out humanity, except for his chosen 300, with a genetically engineered plague.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver – A story about a missionary who takes his wife and four daughters who were totally unprepared for what was to come to the African Congo to live in a small village for a year's post to raise up the heathen. Caught during the political upheaval of the Belgian withdrawal and the American political games in the fledgling new government, the father refuses to leave when all white people are urged to evacuate. It's the story of the four daughters and the mother primarily and their struggle to survive and their eventual desertion of their zealous father/husband and their long walk through the jungle. One child dies, two stay in Africa and two return to the United States. The book continues to follow the girls and how that year and a half impacted their lives and changed them forever. It's really a very good book but I thought it sort of just petered out at the end.


  1. Isn't it wonderful to get lost in a great book? I read both books by Hosseini, the only time I read anything about Afganistan, both charming and informational.

  2. So many books, so little time- so thank you for saving me some- I did enjoy the Poison Wood bible for the characters especially the sister who screwed up the English language so comically but , yeah, it petered...Thanks for the great reviews!

  3. hey ellen - of those listed here i've read both by hosseini and the kim edwards book. this summer i've read amazing books by jean giono (serpent of stars), and kate pullinger's mistress of nothing. a handful of books for young adults and a few adult books that left nothing other than the passing experience of reading them. i have a stack of books still to read and a week before i become a teacher again. uh oh!!! steven

  4. Except for my audio books I've about stopped actual reading. I read too many blogs! As you know, my choices have not been stellar lately, but then again I'm not looking for real literature these days. Entertain me!

  5. Your list of books is diverse and congrats to you for reading them. I have a tower of books I intended to read this summer and I never got to them. I worked, I tended my garden and I watched baseball! That was my summer. It just flew by! Maybe winter will bring me more down time to read.
    Hugs to you dear one

  6. Oh my goodness - we read exactly the same books and have the same opinions on them. heehee We go to the library every two weeks and I get a stack of books and read, read, read - it is probably one of my favorite past times - if it is good I will finish it in one afternoon. Then again I have a LOT of time on my hands, so I can do that.
    Have you read any JD Robb. Hers are good too and I think you would enjoy them. It is set a bit in the future and it is about a cop and her [rich, powerful] husband. Those I cannot put down. :) Thanks for the great list. Skippymom

  7. I love your book reviews, Ellen. I have not read any of these myself, though I own a copy of "Middlesex".

    "What The Dead Know" sounds really good. I think I'll have to read that. Right now, I am in the middle of "Madeleine's Ghost" by Robert Girardi. It's been on my shelf for almost 15 years and I finally picked it up to read. (I could do nothing but read for a decade and still not get to every book I have.)

    It's about a graduate student living in Brooklyn, who is hired to investigate the life of a nun for the purpose of proposing her as a saint. Meanwhile, his apartment is haunted by a female spirit, and his heart is haunted by Antoinette, a woman with whom he had a brief, shining affair in New Orleans ten years earlier. It's good stuff. Girardi should feel honored. I almost never read male novelists anymore.

  8. Wow, you read 14 books over the summer? You are mighty!! Wow. I'm not a reader of fiction, so I appreciate your reviews.

    Ellen, your life is so full. When do you ever find time to sleep?

  9. I've read a few of these. Really liked Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. A real eye-opener when it comes to how women live in constant fear in Afghanistan. My reading this summer has been light. The world seems too heavy right now for me to read things that make me feel sad. So I'm off to read my Janet Evanovich novel. Thanks for the review.

  10. There is so little time to read nowadays, blogging is partly to blame. I read late at night, which means that I either re-read old favourites or light- ish new stuff.

    I've read some of the ones you mention, I really loved the Kingsolver and would recommend "The Prodigal Summer'.

    I have also gone back to E.M. Forster, antediluvian, I know, but I absolutely get lost in the lyricism, the lightness of touch and the miraculous relevance of his very early short stories.

    I love words and find too many contemporary novels harsh and sentimental at the same time. The beauty of language seems to be of little concern now.

  11. Impressive little group of reads there. I usually enjoy Barbara Kingsolver's books. The first of hers I read was Poisonwood Bible. Her latest The Lacuna did not catch my interest and I didn't finish it. I need to make a list of the books I read because I will forget the time frame in which I read them.
    My favorites this summer have been Steig Larsson's Millennium Trilogy: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest. Larsson was a great storyteller.

  12. Wow. I can't believe you read all those in - what, a summer? I have a hard time getting one a month done. Good for you. You've read some good ones, there.


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