Monday, February 27, 2012

Criminal Plots Challenge

My book club of the past 10 years is sort of dissolving. Although I sometimes contemplated dropping out and occasionally disliked the selected book, now that it is "on hold" I have missed it. I miss meeting with the ladies who I became friends with but now rarely see, I miss reading books I probably wouldn't have picked up on my own, and I miss discussing those books. I was often surprised to hear positive comments about books I didn't like and I found it interesting to hear opposite opinions. Sometimes the discussions made me look at the book from a different perspective (always a good thing for me). I also think the book club provided more focus to my reading. Since I knew a book would be discussed I looked for things I liked and didn't and I looked for interesting quotes or sections of the story that were challenging or thought-provoking. Now though, I just read.
The challenge I did at the first of the year helped fill the void a little so I started searching the internet for another. Here is one I found that I thought feasible:    Even though mystery/ crime/ thriller isn't my go-to genre, it's something I like to read.

I looked into an historical fiction challenge, but it only classified by the number of HF books you read in the year.... I kind of like the title challenges because it makes you search for something specific, meaning it may not be one you'd choose otherwise.

Here are the title requirements for this challenge:
1. Weapon in the title
2. Published more than 10 years ago
3. Written by author from home state
4. Protagonist opposite sex of author
5. Written by author using a pen name
6. Stand-alone book by author who writes a series

So, until we meet again......

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Elephant's Journey

by Jose Saramago

When I saw this book about a year ago I considered reading it, but being familiar with Saramago's writing style, I knew I'd need to be in the right frame of mind to tackle the complete disregard of punctuation and capitalization he employs. He turns what should be a quick and fun read into a mental exercise that can be worth the effort in the end..... but you must be prepared!

The Elephant's Journey is very loosely based on an event in 1551 when the king of Portugal gifts an Indian elephant to his cousin the archduke of Austria. The story follows the elephant, Solomon and his mahout (keeper) from their departure in Lisbon across Spain, on a sea voyage to Italy, through the treacherous Alps to his arrival in Vienna. It is told from the point of view of a distant narrator, in a very story-telling fashion, including much chasing of rabbits! Intermixed with the travelogue are Saramago's observations on society, religion, status and relationships, at times quite humorous.

I'm sure that Saramago's failure to use periods and quotes and other such marks used in elementary writing is intentional, but I think it is a disservice to his point. Or maybe that is his point! I'm iffy on the recommendation.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Night Circus

by Erin Morgenstern

My overall impression of this book was enjoyable, reading it was almost like being in a dream. Morgenstern's writing is simple yet full of descriptive imagery that made the circus come alive and left me wishing to explore it on my own. The Night Circus begins as a challenge created by a pair of magicians trying to prove whose magical method is superior. Complications arise when they fall in love and come to two understandings: the circus cannot stand without them and to win means to lose (I don't want to give too much of a spoiler).

I give credit to the author for her originality and imagination; the concept was very clever. Although I did find the descriptions and details of each circus tent intriguing on their own, at some point I was also ready for some more substance to the story that would justify these elaborations. I think the story could have been stronger by placing more emphasis on the battle between the magicians, which would lend support to each of the creations. At some point earlier along the journey, I also wanted the competitors to gain a better understanding of the rules, which always remain elusive to them and the reader.

All in all it is a good book that is fun to read. I look forward to more from this author.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sister of My Heart

by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The whole time I was reading this book I was thinking how much my reading buddy would love this story! Although Sudah and Anju are not really twins, they're not even sisters for that matter, they have a bond that even sisters rarely manage. Born together the same day both of their fathers die, the cousins are raised as sisters in their home in Calcutta. The narrative changes voice between the girls as they grow from girlhood through some turbulent teenage years, arranged marriages and two tragedies, one that separates them and another that draws them closer.

The author does a great job of weaving the culture and customs of India into Sister of My Heart, confronting the traditions of arranged marriages, the challenges faced by young brides brought into the homes of their new families, and the value placed on having sons. She tells of a special and longed for love between these girls and the sacrifices each is willing to make for the other. Divakaruni also sneaks in a surprising twist that makes for a touching ending.

The biggest problem for me was the author's inability to adequately distinguish the voice of each narrator, I had to regularly check the chapter heading to determine which girl was speaking this part of the story. Some of this may have been intentional because they were so close at heart, but I did find it slightly distracting at times. No matter though, I'd still recommend it.