Thursday, June 17, 2010

Reading update

It occurred to me that I haven't been sharing my bookshelf updates, so here is a run down of what I've read over the past few months, and my reviews.

I am currently reading two books, as is usually the case. One is my commuting book, one is my bedside book. So right now it is Under the Dome by Stephen King and Some Girls by Jillian Lauren.

Under the Dome is my bedside book, meaning I get through about ten to twenty pages a night, which in a book this long (1,074 pages), will leave me reading it for a long time. As a Stephen King fan, this reminds me of earlier books, like 'Salem's Lot, where there is a large cast of characters, and even the town is a character. Because of the dome encapsulating the town, the setting is especially limited, but there are so many different key people to follow and keep straight, and many times, watch die horribly. But this is not a horror story, nor is it that supernatural, beyond the mysterious origin and composition of the dome itself. More than anything, it is a character study, which is something Stephen King knows how to do well. This of past characters like Jack Torrance or Annie Wilkes or Roland Deschain. In this book, Jim Rennie and his son Junior are some of the most fascinating characters, using the dome as an excuse to allow the monsters within them to feast on the helpless town.

I have only gotten a couple of chapters into Some Girls, but am already intrigued. Plus I have sat in on countless meetings discussing the book, so I know what I'm getting into. It's an autobiography of a girl who decided instead of finishing her theater degree, to drop out and learn from the world. This included stripping, working as an escort, and finally embarking on a trip to Brunei to become one of Prince Jefri's girlfriends. She tells her story in a compelling and contemplative way I am enjoying so far. For further reviews and interviews, click away.

I began the previous book after finding myself so disappointed with Broken Glass Park by Alina Bronksy that I actually couldn't finish it. I rarely leave a book unfinished, but I have such a stack of books to read, I couldn't keep at it. Basically, the problem was that the story is so non-linear, jumping in time and place, that I couldn't keep track of when I was. Beyond that, the author doesn't introduce characters, simply brings them into play, so that I couldn't be sure of how they related to the narrator, a young girl going through family turmoil in a country that isn't her own, who has promised her brother to avenge them against the man who killed her mother and potential new step father. This is about as far as I got, and extracting that much of the plot took some work. I have nothing against translations, I enjoyed Elegance of the Hedgehog, and am a big fan of all books by Paulo Coelho, but this one left me feeling lost.

Before this one came two books I really enjoyed and in which I appreciated the voices and contexts so out of my repertoire. These were The Color of Water by James McBride and The Well and the Mine by Gin Phillips.

I came to The Color of Water in a roundabout way. I went to see The Rock Bottom Remainders in concert in NYC, and after hearing how well James McBride plays the saxophone, I wanted to read his writing as well. It turns out, it matches his musical skills. His story goes back and forth between learning about his mother's past in her own words, and telling his story of growing up the son of a white mother and a black father in a world not quite ready for the melding of the two cultures. He is insightful, poignant, and very readable.

The Well and the Mine takes place during the Great Depression in Alabama. It begins with a young girl seeing a woman drop her infant into the family's well, and continues on, looking through the eyes of each member of the household, as they try to uncover who the woman was, try to keep food on their table, and to struggle with racial relations which already feel outdated to them. While writing in an accent can come across hokey, it is well done here and helps to bring you into this small town which revolves around the mine where most of the men work. But Albert Moore wants better for his children, and works hard to give them a chance at a better life. It is a mystery, a coming of age book for the two girls, Tess and Virgie, and a glimpse into a time and place forgotten.

Before these great literary tales, I indulged my fantasy bone (does that sound wrong? Ah, well), and read the most recent installment of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, the inspiration for the hit HBO series True Blood (which I also adore). I had been waiting for this book to come out for six months, so my expectations were high, especially after the dark events that finished the previous book, Dead and Gone. Maybe those expectations lead me to some disappointment. I was glad to finally have Sookie with Eric, though I would have liked to see more of him in the book, especially since Alexei was such a haunting character. And I enjoyed Sookie at the werewolf meeting tripping out on shaman juice. But I didn't feel like Charlaine used this book to move forward much on the pressing issues of the werewolves in the mainstream culture or the power struggle in the Vampire hierarchy. Instead, it had a very neat conclusion to events only created within the scope of this book. I wanted more, since it's another year until the next installment. But I will eagerly await that book as well.

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