Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Ocean in the Closet

The Ocean in the Closet: A Novel

by Yuko Taniguchi

An interesting read. This book was fraught with symbolism and simile. Overall an enjoyable read, although there is not a definite climax or denouement (and perhaps this was intentional). The parts written from Hideo's perspective are excellent: poignant and complete. The parts written from Helen's perspective, however, are often too simple, matter-of-fact, and abrupt; the style is more appropriate of a child 3-4 years younger than Helen is supposed to be (9).

Lies My Teacher Told Me

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong

by James W. Loewen

I found the first 10 chapters of this book absolutely riveting, and I am one of those kids who hated history. American history has traditionally been taught in a bland, rose-colored manner, and now I know why. I also learned many of the facts of American history that have been left unsaid, things that might be unpleasant or controversial, but things which make history real. I always knew the happy shiny version of what was taught me was B.S. and to find out what was actively hidden was interesting and engaging. In the last two chapters the author delves more specifically into his thesis of why American history is taught the way it is, and what can be done about it, although as someone who is neither a teacher nor a parent, I got a little bored because there was really nothing for ME to do but note that someday in the distant future when I have school-aged kids I should remember this.

Brave New World

Brave New World

by Aldous Huxley

The first two thirds of this book were wonderful! Excellent social commentary with pretty good character development. Unfortunately, the further I read this book the more I realized Huxley was more trying to make a specific point than to write a naturally progressing novel. Much of the ending was simply contrived. Huxley would have done more justice to his ideas had he let the plot flow and left his own diatribes to essays rather than a novel.


Goat: A Memoir

by Brad Land

An interesting read. I found this book very easy to follow and a quick read. This autobiography centers around two acts of violence committed on the author, the first at the hands of strangers, the second at the hands of his supposed friends. The book follows the author's recovery journey.

A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time

by Madeleine L'Engle

I thought this was a great book, although it would have been better if I hadn't read it the first time as an adult. Interesting social commentary, and a great integration of theoretical physics into a children's novel.

The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar

by Sylvia Plath

This book read more like a memoir than a novel. This book has a very real, chillingly accurate description of how one thinks when suffering from depression. A fairly easy read, The Bell Jar does not follow the typical denouement and resolution pattern of a novel but more the pattern of real life with all its uncertainties. I appreciate that it was not wrapped up and delivered in a neat little package.


Blessings: A Novel

by Anna Quindlen

I hated this book. If I hadn't been reading it for book club I'd have stopped. The characters are one-dimensional, the prose was pretentious, and the book managed to be both too predictable and contrived.

A Separate Peace

A Separate Peace

by John Knowles

To me, A Separate Peace is not a tale of friendship gone awry, but a story about regret and living with oneself after doing something terrible. What I liked most about this book the most was the author's ability to describe a scene so well it's like watching a movie.

The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner

by Khaled Hosseini

Hosseini has a very straightforward writing style that allows the reader to identify with the narrator, as horrible as some of his thoughts and (in)actions are. It makes you think: Would I do the same were I in that situation? This story travels through post-soviet Afghanistan, through the reign of the Taliban, and ultimately to America. It is heart-wrenching and I appreciated that, although there was a small sliver of hope, it did not end on a contrived happy note. The narrator has to work for his redemption. One of the few books that made me cry, although I could not put it down. The book also helped me to understand some of the recent history in Afghanistan as well as the ethnic and religious struggles the people of the country live through. I would highly recommend it to everyone, although I would warn that it is a very sad book and has a lot of violence, including rape.


Middlesex: A Novel

by Jeffrey Eugenides

My other favorite book of all time. Jeoffery Eugenides is a masterful story teller whose prose flows naturally and in an easy-to-realate-to way. His imagery and subtle foreshadowing make the plot unfold as if you're right there in it. This story is told in the style of an epic Greek poem, although without the rhymes ;) It follows the journey of a single allele through a family from Mount Olympous to Detroit over three generations, as narrated by the owner of a rare double-hit of this allele resulting in a type of hermaphroditism. After the story of the allele is told, the author shares his own struggle growing from a little girl to a teenage girl to a man. In this unique twist of a coming-of-age story, I was astounded how closely the narrator's experiences, thoughts and feelings as a pubescent girl mirrored my own. Eugenides definately is able to climb into the minds of his characters, which makes for a much more engaging and believable read.

The Virgin Suicides

The Virgin Suicides

by Jeffrey Eugenides

Jeffrey Eugenides is a masterful story teller whose prose flows naturally and in an easy-to-realate-to way. His imagery and subtle foreshadowing make the plot unfold like it is happening to you right now. This story tells about the suicides of four sisters from the point of view of the neighbor boy. Another reviewer said the girls from the book will stay with you long after you've finished it. I have to say I wholeheartedly agree. A great book for those who love to think, but don't need answers.

Life of Pi

Life of Pi: A Novel

by Yann Martel

A good read. Unlike others who read this book I wasn't mad at the ending, just a little confused. I understood what Martel was getting at but he could have explained a little better. An interesting tale about the lengths a human would go to to survive, peppered with naturalist and religious philosophies.


Wifework: What Marriage Really Means for Women

Susan Maushart

I read this book before I got married, so it was a while ago! Still, a great commentary on modern marriages and the continued struggle for women who just want a little marital equity. Also great insight into WHY divorce rates might be soaring...


Misconceptions: Truth, Lies and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood

by Naomi Wolf

A wonderful book and a must-read for anyone, male or female, who wants to have a baby. Through my own research I found that, although the book was published almost a decade ago, many of the medical malpractices she talks about are still commonplace. A very relevant book that will have you shaking with anger at the obstetrical community.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

by Mark Haddon

Wow was all I could think when I first finished this book. Haddon writes in an easy to understand style and really steps into the mind of an autistic boy. Simply wonderful.


Out: A Novel

by Natsuo Kirino

A very good read. While the prose was unusual to this American reader, none of the meaning was lost. This book is about a group of women who work together in a factory. When one woman murders her husband, her friends help her and find themselves drawn into something bigger than they could have imagined. Our hero, Masako, is a complex character who pops out of her assumed role as wife and mother and finds that she has a much more sinister side lurking just below the surface. A perfect ending that is organic and within character. The only warning I'd put is that there is a lot of gore and a few rape scenes.

The Power of One

The Power of One: A Novel

by Bryce Courtenay

I picked up this book because I love Stephen Dorff in the film adaptation, but I couldn't put down the book because it was so good. This book follows a young British boy who grows up in South Africa in the midst of appartheid. In addition to a great story, you get a look at the recent history of South Africa and the relations between the many ethnic groups there without the dryness of a history lesson. Beautifully written with wonderfully three-dimensional characters, every one of them.


Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia

by Jean P. Sasson

A shocking biography that will have you angry and sad. Sultana offers an inside view into the life of a Saudi Princess in the 80's. What I liked most about this book was her descriptions of the lives of women in the upper, middle, and lower class. I will put a warning however that there is a lot of violence against women and girls, including multiple rapes, for those women who might have flash-backs reading this sort of thing.

The Little Prince/Le Petit Prince

The Little Prince/Le Petit Prince

by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry

This is one of my favorite books. Traditionally thought of as a children's book, Le Petit Prince delves deeply into the human soul and psyche through the interaction between a boy and a lost pilot, which, having read other Saint-Exupery works I see as ultimately a conversation between the author and his heart. A very symbolic book that will make you laugh, cry, and leave you wanting to love unconditionally.

My Sister's Keeper

My Sister's Keeper

by Jodi Picoult

I thought the book was rather boring until I reached the last third, when it all became worth it. A wonderful, heart-wrenching surprise ending to boot. I loved the basis for the plot: A sister is created as a 'designer baby' to save her older sister from dying of leukemia. As the girl ages, she decides not to donate her body to her sister time and again. It's very relevent to current events and to my field, which is what drew me to the book in the first place. Piccoult's prose style is a bit predictable and she doesn't always let the plot flow naturally. She also writes herself into one of the characters, which was way too obvious. The plot made this book enjoyable, however I don't think I will be reading another Piccoult book.

We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin

by Lionel Shriver

A very good book that draws you in the further along you are. Fairly well written, although parts of the ending are too predictible. I really liked the way the author used a high school killer as a platform to explore the mother-child bond.


So...this is my book review blog. You can check out my "normal" blog too at Circus Randomus.

I have opened comments to all users, hoping for good book discussion. Any off-topic or abusive comments will be deleted, as is my right (if you think this is censorship re-take freshman Government 101, please, or just pick up a friggin dictionary).

That being said, have fun! Feel free to discuss, disagree, and reccomend! I love reading (when I have the time) and love to read new things.

P.S. The first 20 or so reviews I'm C&Ping from my facebook reviews so they're a bit abbreviated. My reviews will be longer in the future!