Tuesday, August 16, 2011

3 Book reviews

I am so bored tonight!  Well, not really, but I feel that feeling that I haven't had in forever: that let down that comes only when I have finished the book I was immersed in for a few days.  After more than a year of what can only be called a reading slump, I have finally arrived.  Or I had until last night when I finished the last one.

It kind of feels like cheating, because I've gotten each of the books I want to review from NPR.  Their summer reading lists published in May and June gave me 3 good books that I read cover to cover in a matter of days. I don't know why I feel like I'm cheating, but oh well.  But, no more talk, let's review!

State of Wonder, Anne Patchett.  This book is hot right now, in fact, it's number 9 on the NYT Bestseller's list (not that that does much for me; there are plenty of James Patterson's and Mary Higgins Clark's that are there all. the. time. but you won't catch me reading or caring.)  But this book belongs on the best-sellers list.  Trust me.

It is the story of Marisa, a former ob/gyn resident who becomes a pathologist.  Her best friend at work has recently been reported as dead in the Brazilian jungle, and it is her mission to find out how he died.  I was amazed at the world that Patchett described: one of giant flying bugs, of muddy rivers that hide giant anacondas and microscopic fish, of hummingbirds and herons and purple butterflies and psychedelic mushrooms.  It was captivating.  It was also interesting to realize that there are parts of the world that are still wild, where people live in huts and braid their own roofs from leaves while wearing the cast off clothes of Americans.  I had never read a book by the author (she also wrote Bel Canto and The Magician's Assistant).  I'm not doing it justice, but read it (if you can ever get to the top of your library's hold list, heh heh.)

Matched, by Ally Condie.  This is a YF by a writer from Salt Lake City.  She has done what so few LDS authors have done: transcended the world of religion and wrote a book that can appeal to the everyday, non "solve the problem by baptizing and/or killing off a character" type of reader.  Her first few books were in fact published by Deseret Book (not that there is anything wrong with that!) but now she has hit the big time with Matched.  It is a dystopia where everything is decided for you by society, from where you will live to what you will do and who you will marry.  Cassia goes to her matching ceremony only to find that she is to marry her best friend Xander.  However, when she looks at the information given to her about her match, the information isn't about Xander, but another boy she knows: Ky.

I'll admit it is a little like a lot of the recent dystopian fiction of the past few years - Uglies, Hunger Games, what have you.  But, most importantly, there are no glittery vampires or swarthy werewolves to contend with.  The characters don't often "murmur" or "dance across rooms."  Condie has created characters that are likable and believable.  Cassia isn't your trying-to-not-be-self-absorbed-while-being-completely-self-absorbed character like Katniss and Bella.  She knows who she loves and she knows why and she doesn't allow herself to be backed into a love triangle because she is too afraid of hurting the two boys.

My favorite part was when Cassia learns a poem that has been forgotten by society - Dylan Thomas' Do not go gentle into that good night.  I love how the power of language inspires her to stand up and fight.  I also loved a part when Cassia, who doesn't know how to write because everything is typed,  learns to write her name. We take for granted our power to write our own names - a symbol of who were are, a mark that we are here.  I kept thinking of this part of the book when I wrote about my dad writing his name in my copy of East of Eden in my talk for my dad's funeral last week.  Powerful stuff.  Again, I'm not doing it justice, but I loved it.

Before I go to Sleep, SJ Watson.  I'm not much for mysteries, but I could not put this book down and read it in 2 days.  Christine has no long-term memory - everything she learns during the day is lost at night while she sleeps.  She wakes every morning to a man she doesn't know and has to relearn all the painful truths of the past 20 years of her life.  With the help of a doctor and a journal, she starts to piece together her life.  It is so well-written and captivating.  Not my usual genre, but definitely good for a quick summer-time read.

Have you read any of these?  Now that I'm bookless, do you have any suggestions for me?  I have a few holds that I am waiting for, but I'm fishing around.


Amy Sorensen said...

I'm on the hold list for State of Wonder & the sleep one...eventually I'll get there!

Something different you might try. Have you read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running? I think you'll like it. Not a novel. Not a collection of essays, but not an autobiography in the classic sense, either.

Also, you should read Sister.

And, the person who wrote The Dive from CLaussen's Pier has a new collection of stories out. I just got it last night. Will let you know!

Anonymous said...

I have all three on hold. Fingers crossed for some good reading!

Jeanette said...

Yay, now I have all three on hold, I am in a reading slump too. I got so desperate I finally gave up and started reading Harry Potter for the first time!

I just bawled through your last four posts. I remember those last few days with my grandfathers as being some of the most holy experiences in my life. You can't be that close to someone's transcendance without feeling a bit of the wonder yourself.

Jeanette said...

PS, I really want to know how you did the books tab at the top of your blog, I need to do that so I can do better at keeping track!

Lucy said...

I just finished Before I Go To Sleep yesterday. I agree that it was hard to put down but there was something that kept me from really enjoying it. I think it was her choppy, short sentences. But, interesting.

I really would like to read matched. I've heard good things about it.