Some reviews..

August 27, 2008 at 8:41 pm (Uncategorized)

Thinking of making this a once a month deal.. I add my reviews to LibraryThing pretty regularly, which I bring over here, where I expand on them, if I had any further thoughts.. With that said… Book reviews!

American Wife – Curtis Sittenfeld.

I was a fan of Prep, read it a few times at least, so when I heard of Wife, I couldn’t wait! After a failed Shelf Awareness (I think) attempt, I was fortunate enough to score a copy from the EarlyReviewers program over at Library Thing. Huzzah!

I had really enjoyed this book. After a while, Alice, the main character, was feeling less like a character, and more like an actual person. She’s flawed, and deals with some very real struggles, but she always tries to stay good. Throughout the book, we see a lot happening to her, and each changes her, and forms who she is.

It’s a very good book overall. Some of her monologue could have been skimmed off, as it felt she was over thinking things, but it didn’t bother me so much. Also, while we see a lot of major events in her life, we also miss other events that I would have liked to see happening. It’s almost a shock when you finish one section, then go to the next, and find out all these things happened.

While I honestly don’t know much about Laura Bush, I couldn’t help but think of her as I read some parts. When she meets and marries into the Blackwell family.. When her husband is elected president.. Just like the real deal, she has to keep up the facade that she is 100% on her husband’s side, that she shares his opinions and thoughts, even though privately, she has disagreements. One of her main disagreements was she wanted to bring home the men and women sent overseas, which gets publicized by the press almost immediately.

Growing up, she’s had to deal with very real issues, and the consequences that they bring. The death of a friend, the loss of a friend.. Abortion, homosexuality, alcohol abuse.. Loss of beloved family members, meeting and dealing with your new in-laws.. Like I said above, she meets each issue as it comes, and she walks away changed, learning from it. She has very real struggles that we can all identify with, in one way or another.

Overall, I’m glad I got it, very well worth it.


The Grift – Debra Ginsberg

Grift (noun) – a group of methods for obtaining money falsely through the use of swindles, frauds, dishonest gambling, etc.

Ever since she was a child, this is what Marina Marks did. Her method : being a “psychic.” She learned the most common methods, tarot and palm reading, and used them to make money. First, for her mother, to support her habits, then to support herself later on. Realistically, she doesn’t have any psychic gift, just knowledge of the tarot, what the lines on the palm mean, and how to extract information from her clients. Body language, casual conversation, a piece of jewelry, all help her to seem like the real deal.

After saving enough money in Florida, she moves out to California, where people are more accepting of psychics, to start fresh, and to pursue her real goal – a nice nest egg to live off of. After doing a gig at a swanky party, she builds up a client base, each with his or her own story behind them. One is gay, and wants his partner to be more accepting of homosexuality, and to pay more attention to him. One is a married womanizer, but one of his latest conquests is getting too attached. Yet another is married to a man that wants nothing more than a child, even though she’s not too fond of the idea.

As the story goes on, the past catches up to Marina, and coupled with some of her clients getting too attached, she starts having more problems than the expected. On one fateful day, the grift is no more, as her real gift suddenly blooms, and with it, all the pieces start falling into place as she learns to use her gift.

It’s a good story, and it keeps you guessing. I honestly didn’t expect some of the turns that came about in the story, although I kind of guessed, based on the prologue, that her natural psychic talent would come into play eventually. I thought it’s a good book, and I hope other readers won’t be disappointed with it.


When We Were Romans – Matthew Kneale

I wasn’t too thrilled with this one, unfortunately, and that’s because of the writing style.

The story is told, and narrated by, a 9 year old boy, and that was my turn off. While I appreciate the attempt for realism, the purposeful misspellings and run away trains of thought wasn’t really my cup of tea. The story was the only thing that grabbed me long enough to finish it, though you could guess what was going to happen pretty fast.

As someone said on Library Thing, even though it was a short book already, less would have been better.

I honestly wouldn’t recommend this one, sorry Mr. Kneale!


Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous YouthXiaolu Guo

After I finished, I couldn’t help but think : boy does she like to eat! This short, quirky novel is not about eating disorders, which I wanted to point out first. It’s about Fenfang, a 21 year old “whose youth just started,” sick of living on her sweet potato farm, and sets off to Shanghai to make something of herself. After packing her wordly possessions (not much) and a long train ride, she finally gets there, and encounters her first problem : where to stay? As it turns out, after much wandering, she finally finds her residence entirely by accident (literally!)

She gets jobs as an extra on films, has a failed relationship with a third rate director, who turns into a bit of a stalker, makes friends, and changes residences many times. All while eating.

The novel is short and sweet. It’s fun and quirky. It’s literally 20 chapters (the fragments) of Fenfang’s life, and more then once I had a chuckle, especially whenever she says “Heavenly Bastard in the Sky.” If you’re looking for a light, quick, witty read (took only a few hours, with a few interruptions from the kids,) then this is a good book.


I, robot – Howard S. Smith

I originally put this one off for a while after receiving. Even though it looked interesting, after flipping through it and seeing some of technical sketches, I thought the book would be a bit too technical as well. It actually wasn’t, and had an interesting storyline, actually.

Haruto, the main character is a strict rule abiding Japanese inspector, who’s investigating a case. He winds up getting in the middle of a secret deal between Japan and Israel. Robots with sophisticated AI to serve as super soldiers, essentially, in exchange for nuclear weapons to use against Korea. He’s on the run from the law, far from home, and determined to get as much information as possible to expose this plot. I think the last thing he definately expected though was to find love, in an unlikely place. In the end, it almost felt like the Matrix, but reversed.

I liked it though, hoping my friend does too, since I’m passing it on.


Coming up for reviews soon.. Last Night I Dreamed of Peace (almost done with it,) The Last Queen, The Aviary Gate, The Terminal Spy, hopefully Schooled if it comes soon, Blue Genes, Guernica.. So much to read! Eek!


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Catching Up..

August 6, 2008 at 1:44 pm (Uncategorized)

Gah! Totally forgetting about this blog.. never a good thing for me! I haven’t read too many books though, so I guess I’m ok..

I’ve read So Long At the Fair, Stealing Athena, and The Gargoyle.


Stealing Athena – Karen Essex

I really enjoyed this one! Not only is the cover beautiful, the storyline was very good as well.

Aspasia is a courtesan and philosopher in ancient Athens, unable to marry her master due to a law he himself has set in place. Even though a woman’s place is to be hidden and quiet, she sets out to argue logic, find truths, and help others with her advice. Throughout the course of her story, we meet the artists and sculptors that created some of the famous statues and friezes, and how she influenced them.

Lady Mary Elgin is wife to a British ambassador in the 1600’s. What started as a whirlwind marriage met with disapproval from her parents, slowly degrades into unhappiness and bitterness, and eventually, divorce. Her husband’s great ambition was to bring home the marbles that we saw being built in Aspasia’s story, back home, with much acclaim and wealth. Mary, using her charms and smarts, tries to help him meet his goals, which in the end, is grossly misunderstood, and used against her, by her husband, taking from her her greatest possessions.

I felt Mary was a strong and smart woman, going against her role of modesty and meekness to help her husband, and standing up for what she wanted in the end. I couldn’t help but feel sad when her husband took away what she most dearly loved.. And Aspasia, who was a social outcast in Athens because she wasn’t a legal citizen and originally sold to be a courtesan, helped influence some of the great minds of her time.

The author tried to stick to the facts as closely as she could, which I did appreciate, and she wrote the story very well. The only downside, and it’s very small, is my book actually arrived with a page ripped in half. Other than that though.. Nothing but praise here.


The Gargoyle – Andrew Davidson

Yes, the first half is a bit gruesome, talking about the burns he received. Why sugar coat it though? The pain and the destruction of the body is a terrible thing, but I’d rather they be confronted realistically, like a real patient would, rather than fluffed up. The second half definitely gets better though, so for those that are bothered by the first, keep going on!

While in the burn unit, he meets a psychiatric patient, Marianne Engel, who’s convinced she’s his lover hundreds of years ago. As the story progresses, she grows on him and everyone they encounter. She tells fantastical stories from her time as a nun in Engelthal, to Vikings, to a glass-blowing woman in China. They all shared a common theme – love, and the sacrifices made for it.

The book is really quite good, and one I will be recommending to my friends to read. Enjoy!


So Long At the Fair – Christina Schwarz

I tried to give this one a chance, really did. Even though I finished it, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have liked to. It’s a story in the present day, intertwined with events from the past. Even though those events answered some questions about the characters, I felt like I was still missing out, and she ends the story with a few things hanging too. Definately no happy ending here. Just a feeling of ‘so… what happened?’ It was interesting to see how it all ties together but other than that, this book didn’t do it for me.


Currently reading The Aviary Gate, then I plan on American Wife next. Still need to get through i, robot! More on the way as always! Feels like whenever I give some away (mostly to my grandmother) more pop in to replace the vacancy. Ahh! LibraryThing and ShelfAwareness do NOT help!

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