Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Weird Sisters

by Eleanor Brown

Why did I like The Weird Sisters so much? Maybe because I am one of three sisters and this book nails the birth order stereotypes without being conventional. Each sister battled some personal issue true to her character and her place within the family.

Maybe it was all the Shakespeare references, which made this family a bit eccentric. Never mind that I haven't picked up any Shakespeare since high school, the citations were familiar and fitting enough that it didn't matter.

Maybe it was how a love for reading was portrayed. In particular, I loved how this family left books sitting around the house picking them up at random to read, not necessarily finishing or starting a book in order.

I also liked the first person voice, which made the reader feel an immediate part of the family. I thought Ms. Brown was clever to combine these sisters voices in telling this tale so each problem encountered was addressed by all three sisters sounding as one.

The actual story is rather common (sisters return home to take care of sick mother and manage to heal their own wounds along the way), but the way this one is told, the perspective and the details make for a fresh story.

If you have sisters this is a must-read, but even if you don't you'd probably still feel you fit right in.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pictures of You

by Caroline Leavitt

Perhaps I was so disappointed in this book because of the high recommendation in Bookmarks magazine and the great Amazon reviews. After reading it, I really don't understand such high praise for this corny story that was so often unbelievable. First, there were many instances in the book's timeline that just didn't add up, like when Isabelle is discharged from the hospital several days after the accident and is searching online for news stories and finds one published a day after the wreck stating that the boy and other driver were admitted and released.... she didn't get out until a few days after that news story was supposedly written. Another glaring time line issue is when the boy, at age 29, is written up as one of Boston's best OB's and that 5 years prior, as a doctor, he lost one of his patients.... must be Doogie Howser.

There were also so many issues with unbelievable events. A father who lets his 9 year old son, who is a chronic asthmatic, stay home alone after school and all during the summer..... the father who is so worried about his son but never seems to know where he is...... the accident with these women from the same small town who just happen to both be on the same road 3 hours away on a foggy day..... how quickly these two grieving people fall madly in love...... none of it works.

For me Pictures of You was such a letdown. I wanted to like it, but there was just too much wrong. There are a few ladies in my book club who I am sure would love it, though.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

by Stieg Larsson

This book was very long and could have done with better editing, but it was a good ending for the Millenium Trilogy. In enjoyed all three books but would recommend they be read within a closer time frame than I read them. In particular, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is a continuation of The Girl Who Played With Fire so readers should allow time to complete both stories in succession. Many characters have very similar names, which can become confusing, and remembering the dramatic events of the second book is helpful to the final story.

This book has many different stories going at the same time and some of them don't really seem necessary to advancing the main plot. That being said, I still liked the book. It has a lot of action, interesting characters, social and legal controversy, and closure. I liked Salander, she was a unique character who had many different sides. Although she was asocial, she maintained a few distinctive relationships that enabled her to remain acceptable.

This book addresses constitutional violations within a secret government division that has set itself up outside of the law. It exposes political and police corruption but respects the judicial system. All three of these books included lots of computer hacking making me skeptical of any type of internet security. Salander and her hacker friends show how vulnerable computer storage is.

What a shame that Larsson's writing career ended so suddenly.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Crooked Letter Crooked Letter

by Tom Franklin

This book is marketed as a "great southern mystery;" great, questionable; southern, very much so; mystery, not at all. 

Tom Franklin is very descriptive and writes an easy to read novel, which quickly immerses the reader into the south. He did an excellent job of developing his characters, creating interesting relationships between them and making some side -themes that could lead to interesting book club discussions.

Some of the issues I had with the book were that although much attention was given to detail, in many cases the detailed explanations were often unnecessary to development of the story line. Another problem was that while the author wanted to portray racism in the 70's, the concept was repeatedly stated in the story, but the actions, behaviors and dialogue of the characters did not reflect a racist community. I also had trouble believing when the most significant murder was solved, which is the crux of the entire story, the police in the story don't pursue it. I think the author struggled in creating mystery. Each time an incident arose that could lead to a mystery, the author conveyed the results before developing any suspense.

I might have liked Crooked Letter better if I hadn't read it expecting a mystery.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Still Alice

By Lisa Genova

A sad and descriptive story of devastating memory loss through Alzheimer's disease. 

While this book is no great work of literature, it is very thought provoking. The author is clearly familiar with the slow progression of this aliment and gives detailed descriptions of the effects on both the patient and those who care for them. The characters in the story were likable and relatively realistic, although the dialogue seemed a bit forced.  The great thing about this book is how in depth the author went to present the digression of thoughts for an Alzheimer's patient. Much of the story was generated from the mind, thoughts and actions of the main character, which brought to light the internal struggles and frustrations of the person who is slowly losing their memories and capabilities. 

This book reminds readers of the humanity of those suffering from dementia and offers ideas for treating them with compassion. Read this book if you know of someone with Alzheimer's or just to gain a better understanding of those who are dealing with it in any way.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Jane Eyre

by Charlotte Bronte

It's a classic, what else can I say? Bronte knew how to tell a story incorporating drama, romance, suspense and tragedy. 

The first time I read this book I was in high school. Between then and now (30 years later.. YIKES!) I've probably re-read it five or so times, and I still love the story. One thing that I contemplated this time was how different it would be to read Jane Eyre as an adult having never read it before. I think it would be amazing to experience this book without already knowing what is going to happen. A few years ago our book club decided to read a year of classics, several of which I had not previously read. Maturity brings an entirely different perspective and understanding to these great works.

The last two times I read Jane Eyre were prompted by it having been a book club selection. This month our group decided to read it again since a movie remake will be released at the end of the month. I'm not sure how they could improve on the Masterpiece Theater production, but it will be fun to see. 

This reminds me of the long list of classics I want to read but just haven't. I need to get back on the wagon :)