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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

10-Second Book Reviews

Barefoot: A Novel: I've been reading a lot of Elin Hilderbrand ever since I happened to pick up one of her books in BJs a while back. This was my third book by her, and while I thought it was enjoyable, it was so much like her previous books that I found it boring and predictable. All of her books take place in Nantucket, and all of them contain a cast of characters going through some struggles while they work it out on vacation (or, sometimes they live there). I read this one back in June, and I had to look back at Amazon just to remember if this was the one I was thinking of.  So, this one is just as good as the rest of Hilderbrand's novels, but if you read too many by her, you might just get bored.

Bossypants: I listened to Tina Fey's new book while running out on the trail, and I have to say that listening to this one has got to be the way to go. Tina does an excellent job. She and I share a lot in common, and I found this book to be totally entertaining while out on a run.  I've seen some reviews where people didn't really understand the point of the book, and it kind of doesn't have a point, I suppose. She reminds me somewhat of David Sedaris, where each chapter is kind of a story out of her life, but they don't all go together into a novel or memoirs that have actual plot. Just take each piece as it's own! You'll laugh, it will be great.

Sisterhood Everlasting: A Novel: I was browsing around Amazon on my Kindle because I was on vacation and I had read the Amazon sample of One Day and decided not to bother reading the whole thing.  I was surprised to see that Ann Brashares had written a fifth Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants novel. I loved the Sisterhood series, because they were mindless reading when I was going through a difficult time in 2005/2006. I thought I'd give this one a try.

This book has gotten some mixed reviews, and I have to say it's a good thing I didn't read this one in 2006. It's a bit of a downer in places, and doesn't have the happy-happy feeling of the first four books.  It was worth a read if you're a fan of the series, but I don't think I'd call it great. Check it out if you would like to check in with the Sisterhood girls a few years down the road. I can't say a lot more without spoilers.

The Alchemist: Ok, I don't get the popularity of this one. It holds the world record for the most translated book in history, having been written in 67 languages (Portuguese being the first). It's one of the most best selling books in history. I mean, I liked it. It was OK. It was not great. It was not profound in a way where I felt like I really changed or learned some great thing as a result of having read it. It's a fable, and it tells the story of a shepherd who follows his dream of finding the pyramids in Egypt. He has adventures and there are good guys and bad, and love, etc.  Somehow it seemed contrived, and the bit of a twist at the end wasn't really worth the wait.  So, sorry on this one.  I didn't get it.

The Lover's Dictionary: A Novel: This book was so interesting. It was written as a dictionary, with each chapter being a different word, presented in alphabetical order. After each word, the "definition" was a few sentences to a few pages of a bit of a story of a couple that you get to know as the book goes on. It's tough to even say what "happened" per se, and it's just sort of a collection of snapshots that piece together into a story. The real beauty of the book is the way it's written, and how easy I found it to relate to the characters. It's a nice one as a short read.
The Time Traveler's Wife: I totally, 100% expected to hate this book. Previously, I'd seen the movie version of The Lake House and thought it was corny and silly (I never read the book, maybe the book is better). I thought that The Time Traveler's Wife would be in that same realm of cheesiness, so I'd been putting off reading it. I surprised myself with this one, and in fact, ended up reading the second half completely in one afternoon. I haven't done that in a while. You may have heard the story before - the husband in the book time travels against his will, and ends up meeting his future wife when she is only 6 years old. It's fascinating and truly a wonderful love story. I loved every second of it and I think I can safely list it as one of my all-time favorites. Also - I've since seen the movie, and I can imagine that if I had seen the movie first, I would possibly have thought it was terrible and cheesy.

Sarah's Key: Sigh. I really wanted to love this book. The best I can say is that I liked it quite a bit. It's the story of a young Jewish girl in occupied France, who is taken with her parents during the Vel d'Hiv Roundup. She locks her brother in a cupboard in her bedroom before they go in order to save him, and desperately wants to get back to him. That part of the book was actually spectacular. However, with each chapter, we flash forward to Julia, who is living in present day France, and who is writing an article for a magazine about the Vel d'Hiv Roundup. While Sarah's story is touching and painful, Julia's story is... well, pure chick lit, and the two stories don't mesh that well together. Eventually, the two stories meet, but the flip flopping back and forth became tiresome. I was basically rushing through Julia's chapters so that I could get back to Sarah. Plus, when reading about the horrors of the holocaust, Julia's problems seemed so petty and stupid. So, I liked the book, but just couldn't love it.

The Book Thief: While trying to decide if I wanted to read Sarah's Key, one of the reviews suggested reading The Book Thief, and said this one was a far superior book. I thought I'd read Sarah's Key first, since I'd rather read the best one second. It's another terrific Young Adult novel, but I hardly realized it was YA at all through the whole thing. It's the story of Liesel, a young girl living in Nazi Germany during WWII. It's unusual to see the war from this angle - from someone on the enemy side who is not a soldier. In fact, she and most of the characters, are just innocent bystanders in it all. The story is narrated by death, which I personally liked. The story is heartbreaking and heartwarming, and the characters are so well developed that I loved each and every one of them (even Death). I hadn't heard of this book, except in the review of Sarah's Key, but the review was right - this one was so much better. Give it a read, you won't be disappointed.

...and whew, having read two holocaust books in a row, I will probably read a few light titles next.


misszippy said...

I'm with you on the Alchemist--tried it a few years back and couldn't get into it. I love Tina Fey, so need to try that. I too liked Time Traveler's Wife and didn't expect to--seemed too hokey a concept, but she made it work!

Black Knight said...

Thanks for the review, I think I am going to buy "The Alchemist". Just now I am reading "Etruscology" by Pallottino a very interesting book on the etruscan people.

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