Monday, July 28, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

by John Green

I never planned to read this book, I knew what it was going to be and knew it wouldn't be for me.  I only went against my instinct after reading my friend's blog post (you weren't the last person on the planet to read it) who claimed, "it is worth neglecting your children, taking a sick day or faking a migraine" to read it. I am glad that she liked it so much.

Although it wasn't my favorite, it certainly got lots of people reading!  There are over 27,500 reviews on Amazon and over 80% of them are 5-star. I like seeing and knowing people are reading! I'm kind of a dork that way. Last Sunday, I got into a book discussion with a nine year old and I was so excited to talk books with someone! That is one thing I miss about book club, even after all these years.

The Fault in Our Stars is a teen version of Love Story. 
The End.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Hundred Flowers

by Gail Tsukiyama

"Let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend."
   - Mao Zedong, 1956.

In 1949, Mao Dezong changed the course of history for China creating a socialist republic under the rule of the Communist Party of China. His dictatorship was responsible for human rights abuses and forced labor camps leading to starvation and death for millions of Chinese citizens.

Midway through his control, it seemed Mao had an enlightenment and began the Hundred Flowers campaign, in which he encouraged people to express their opinions on the regime "to promote the flourishing of arts and the progress of science." In reality, the campaign was a ruse to entrap enemies of the state.  A Hundred Flowers tells the story of how one family was impacted by this campaign when the father submits his opinion of Mao's rule. After his arrest, the story unfolds from the perspectives of several characters, but mainly the grandfather Wei and the daughter-in-law Kai Ying. Kai Ying is trying to keep her family afloat through her herbal medicine business and Wei is struggling with a terrible secret. I'm not sure the author did a very good job of getting across the human struggle throughout this period in China, but she did tell an engaging little story.  

(yes, I did notice some historical inconsistencies, but I liked it any way).

Friday, July 4, 2014

Elizabeth is Missing

by Emma Healey

This story is told exclusively from the perspective of Maud, who is an eighty year old woman suffering from dementia. It seems that Maud lives in her childhood home with a daytime caregiver and a daughter who check in on her regularly. Unfortunately, their checking in isn't enough to keep Maud out of trouble. Maud makes frequent calls to the police or leaves her house in search of her friend, Elizabeth, who she believes is missing. Maud becomes very irritated that no one seems to be looking for Elizabeth but her. Part of Maud's frustration stems from the memory of her sister, who disappeared when they were young and the girl was never found. There are many flashbacks throughout the story telling events leading up to and after Sukey's disappearance.

Two problems with Elizabeth is Missing and you might have figured out the first based on the beginning of this post. Reading a novel from the perspective of a person who has lost their mind is repetitive and exhausting! Definitely makes you realize you don't want that disease though. The other is related to the first, the story gets bogged down in the redundancy and after a while you don't care, you just want to get out of that head.

If you are interested in the effects of dementia or Alzheimer's a better option would be Still Alice.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Blood and Beauty: The Borgia's

by Sarah Dunant

Aptly titled Blood and Beauty: The Borgia's is a bloody, often gory story about the beautiful Borgia family. The style reminded me very much of Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl, some interesting but overly smutty historical information.

Rodrigo Borgia became Pope Alexander VI in 1492, the father of four children (that he claimed), despite the fact that celibacy was a requirement of the position. And that is only the beginning of the corruption of his tenure. Throughout his time in office, Borgia manipulated beneficial marriages and divorces for his children, manufactured strategic posts for their charge, had a hand in some suspicious murders and continued his philandering. Yet he was considered a great diplomat and politician at a time when that was a necessary skill of office.

His children were none better. The two older sons, Giovanni and Cesare were in a constant battle for position and a jealous rivalry existed between them, in part perhaps because their father appointed them each to the wrong role. Giovanni was assigned Duke of Gandia, which placed him in charge of land battles, and Cesare was assigned a Cardinal, in hopes he'd become Pope. They each would have been better served having the others' place. His daughter Lucrezia was a pawn for arranged political marriages. The younger son was a disappointment.

In a nutshell. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

by Alexander McCall Smith

I have friends who have read every book in this series and the others written by this author. For years they have waited for a new book to come out and have encouraged me to read his books. I understand this enthusiasm for an author, I kinda get the same way about Stephen King.  So friends, I have finally read the  The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and I am sorry, but I just don't get your obsession. I really wanted to like this book, so please tell me if they get better as they go or if this was actually not the one to read first.

I'll give credit that Precious Ramotswe is an engaging character. She's tough and sassy. And the descriptions and details about Botswana really bring life to that part of Africa. But I missed a good story, and while there are some books in which that works, it didn't for me in this one.

So many of my friends enjoy these books though that you may want to give them a try. Maybe it's just not my cuppa, or maybe it was timing.