Showing posts from June, 2010

review revisit: The Lovers by Vendela Vida

This review originally appeared on this blog in April 2010. I'm reposting it because I haven't had a chance to recap ALA (I'm still here, and it's wonderful!), the novel was published last Tuesday, and it's still one of my favorite reads of the year. I've made a few changes to reflect my current thoughts on the novel and how it has stayed with me. The back story: I am a huge fan of Vendela Vida, and when I first heard about her new novel, the advance praise alone had me longing for it. Thankfully, I got a copy from the publisher via Book Browse.
The basics: Yvonne is a middle-aged widow with two grown children who decides to travel alone to Datca, Turkey. 
Overall: I savored every word of the novel's 240 pages. Vida does a masterful job of showing the reader how even an intelligent, self-aware and honest character, does not really see what is going on around her. Yvonne's slow admissions of her back story made me realize the better I knew her, the less wel…

I'm ALA bound!

I'm on a train bound for Washington, D.C. to attend my first American Library Association Annual Conference. I've been impatiently saving Justin Cronin's The Passage to read on the train, and I cannot wait to start it. I'm really looking forward to the conference too, of course. I'm less excited about the forecast of hot, humid weather for D.C., which means I likely won't be doing too much exploring in my free time.

If you'll be at ALA this week, you can stop by and see me in the Networking Uncommons or email or tweet me about meeting for lunch, dinner, coffee or cocktails. I hope to provide periodic recaps here over the weekend, but at the very least I'll recap the entire event next week.

If I do have spare time and the desire to leave air-conditioning, what would you suggest I do in D.C.?

book review: Good Things I Wish You by A. Manette Ansay

The backstory: I've been meaning to read the novels of A. Manette Ansay since Vinegar Hill was named an Oprah book club pick years ago. When the chance to review her latest novel, Good Things I Wish You for a TLC Tour, I jumped at the chance to finally read one of her novels.

The basics: The heroine of this story is Jeanette, a recently divorced professor in Miami. Jeanette is writing a novel of Clara Schumann, and Good Things I Wish You is metafiction where Jeannette's life intersects with the novel she's writing.

My thoughts: I loved it. I instantly related to Jeanette and found myself rooting for her. I found the details about Clara Schumann's life fascinating. Metafiction may not be universally appealing, but I think Ansay used it beautifully here. For me, the overarching theme of the novel was significance. As a writer, the character of Jeannette was searching for the significance in Clara and her choices that other novelists and biographers may have missed. As a ch…

Waiting on Wednesday: Farishta

Jill at Breaking the Spine hosts Waiting on Wednesday to highlight a not yet published book you can't wait to read.
My pick this week is Farishta by Patricia McArdle. It recently won the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for General Fiction. 
Here's the book's description via Amazon: Patricia McArdle, a resident of Arlington, Va., is a retired American diplomat whose postings have taken her around the world, including northern Afghanistan. Her novel, Farishta, centers around a female American diplomat who, transferred to a volatile, remote outpost in northern Afghanistan, provides aid to refugee women fleeing the violence. She becomes their farishta, or "angel," in the local Dari language. Julie Barer of Barer Literary, LLC, one of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award’s expert panelists, described McArdle’s Farishta as "a moving and fascinating story of one woman’s work in a place that few Americans have experienced beyond newspaper headlines and CNN stories. Both…

movie review: City Island

The backstory: City Island won the Audience Award at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival, and it has a wonderful cast. It's also refreshing to see an independent comedy, as so many films deal with more serious subject matters.

The basics: The Rizzo family is full of secrets. Everyone has one. Some are bigger than others, but the audience is in on all of them. Watch the trailer here.

My thoughts: I really wanted to like City Island. The acting was superb. The idea of the film was wonderful. The cascade of secrets, of course, all come out in one, long, awkward, unfunny scene. The film is certainly an homage to and a twist on a tragedy, but it ends up falling short of its aim despite the great acting. The problem for me is silly storylines are given as much dramatic heft as the serious ones. The juxtaposition of exposing these secrets at the same time made them all pale in comparison. As the audience knew all of the secrets from early in the film, by the time the resolution came, I was bore…

book review: The Truth About Delilah Blue by Tish Cohen

The backstory: Tish Cohen's first novel, Town House, was a finalist for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize Best First Book for the Canada/Caribbean region. I haven't read Town House, but when I heard about her newest novel, The Truth About Delilah Blue, I was intrigued enough to read it.

The basics: Lila Mack, born Delilah Blue, moved from Toronto to Los Angeles when she was eight. She hasn't seen her mother since she was eight, and although she loves her father fiercely, she feels abandoned. Her mother chose her art over her daughter, and Lila longs to be an artist too. Her sensible, salesman father, however, will only finance business school. Lila decides to work as a nude model for an art school so she can absorb the lessons of the instructors while getting paid rather going into debt. As the titles indicates, however, there are secrets lurking and the novel explores Lila's coming of age and coming to terms with her childhood.

My thoughts: It would be simple to sum u…

guest post: Eyes on the (Orange) Prize

I haven't quite quit talking about the Orange Prize, friends. This week I guest blogged for Florinda while she's on vacation. Writing about the Orange Prize for a more general audience was wonderful, and I pontificate on why reading the shortlist was important to me as a reader and a woman.

dinner and a movie: Babies

The backstory: As soon as I saw the trailer, I wanted to see this movie.

The basics: The documentary cameras follow the four babies through the early stages of development. It's an insight into life and raising children in San Francisco; Tokyo; Opuwo, Namibia; and Bayanchandmani, Mongolia.

My thoughts: Babies was quite a bit like spending time with actual babies. It was sometimes boring and monotonous, but then a baby would do something so adorable or hilarious it made it all worthwhile. There was no narrative arc, and some scenes lasted longer than others. I found myself enjoying the Namibian baby the least because I know so little about their culture. There are no subtitles for the stories, so I was left lost (like a baby) with the other languages. I was hoping for more insight into the other cultures. I'm fascinated by differing gender roles and social customs around the world, and while I could infer some of these, I would have loved a little explanation. There were also tim…

book review: The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

The backstory: I wanted to read The Lacuna when it first came out. I loved the subject matter, as I have long been an admirer of Diego Rivera and Frido Kahlo. Although I have never read Barbara Kingsolver, which always surprises people, as she is my kind of writer (and at one point owned all of her books, which was, sadly, a quick way to ensure they were never my top reading priority.) When The Lacuna made the shortlist for the 2010 Orange Prize, I finally found the impetus to read this behemoth of a novel, which won the 2010 Orange Prize yesterday.

The basics: The Lacuna is the story of Harrison Sheperd, a fictional character whose life crosses paths with notable figures and appears in historic places throughout his life in Mexico and the United States. The story is told through letters, diaries and newspaper articles. There are notes from Sheperd's archivist sprinkled throughout to guide the reader and provide clues as to why this portion of the story was in the form.

My thoughts:…

Orange Prize!

The winner:

My reaction: Hmm. I did finally finish it last night (review coming tomorrow), and I'm disappointed it won. I'll share my full thoughts with my review tomorrow.

The Mock Orange Prize results: Sunday, I posted a poll for readers of this blog to vote. The only thing clear from the results are how different our tastes are!

There was an even split on who we WANT to win between four novels: Black Water Rising, A Gate at the Stairs, The Lacuna and White Woman on the Green BicycleThere was a clear winner on we THINK will win: The Lacuna. (I have smart readers!) Wolf Hall and White Woman on the Green Bicycle also got votes.As for books left off the shortlist (that were on the longlist): The Help, The Rehearsal, and This Is How. I wish I would have asked what books on the shortlist weren't deserving, but I'll remember next year!There was only one vote for a book left off the longlist: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood.
What's next?
Reading the longlist! I ord…

book review: Based Upon Availability by Alix Strauss

The backstory: I jumped at the chance to read this book because the summary sounded so amazing. Here's part of the publisher's description:
Based Upon Availabilityis the story of eight women, each exploring the basic need for human connection while seeking to understand themselves better. They are lonely, strong and driven women who, when pushed to the edge, must fight for their lives as they struggle to become the women they wish to be...The hotel offers sanctuary to each—for an hour, for several days—and while some find solace, others find only despair. Strauss portrays nuanced portraits of these seemingly ordinary women to create an utterly original read, filled with dark themes and light prose. It sounds fantastic right? Eight women whose lives intertwine at the Manhattan Four Seasons? I'm always fascinated by the stories of people I meet and see in passing each day.

The basics: Yes, technically it is the story of eight women. Mostly, however, it's the story of Morga…

book review: White Woman on the Green Bicycle

The backstory: If you don't know the Orange Prize is myrecentobsession, then you must be new here (WELCOME!). The White Woman on the Green Bicycle is on this year's shortlist, and the wonderful folks at interlibrary loan were able to procure a copy for me so I could read it even though it hasn't been published in the U.S. yet. Although I was not familiar with Monique Roffey before this year's Orange Prize, I was looking forward to reading this one because the cover plays with color gorgeously.

The basics: The White Woman on the Green Bicycle is the story of Sabine and George Harwood, a young couple who moved from England to Trinidad fifty years ago, near the end of the island's colonial history. The novel opens in 2006, and George and Sabine are unhappily married. Trinidad is rampant with political corruption and reckless cops who seemingly don't face consequences for their actions.

My thoughts: The first half of this novel occurs in 2006. Then, the narrative jum…

Sunday Salon: Orange Prize week

Folks, we are mere days away from learning the winner of this year's Orange Prize. I know I've been following the action more closely than most, but I cannot wait to learn the victor. I've been trying to read all six shortlist books. I've fared pretty well, but I doubt I will be able to read Wolf Hall before Wednesday. I've discovered a fellow fanatic at Farm Lane Books, and it's been wonderful talking about the books, even when we don't agree on them! Here's the shortlist:

If you've been following this blog, you know how I feel about these books. I adored Black Water Rising and The White Woman on the Green Bicycle (review coming tomorrow). I enjoyed The Very Thought of You. I wasn't wild about A Gate at the Stairs. I'm close to finishing The Lacuna, but it has been a laborious read for me. I hope to finish this week. Sadly, I've yet to crack open Wolf Hall, and although I hope to at least start it, it seems unlikely I will finish it befo…

movie review: Letters to Juliet

The backstory: While chick flicks aren't normally my first choice of films, I thought the trailer for this film was fantastic. Seriously, I cried all of the four times I saw it. It's set in Verona, a city I happen to love, and it stars Amanda Seyfried, whom I have adored since Mamma Mia!

The basics: The trailer is pretty awesome in its own right, but Amanda Seyfried plays Sophie, a fact-checker for The New Yorker who dreams of writing for it instead. She's engaged to Victor, played by Gael Garcia Bernal, a restaurateur who doesn't really prioritize their relationship. The two set off on a pre-honeymoon a few weeks before their wedding to Verona. Victor is more interested in meeting vendors and going to a wine auction than spending time with the delightful Sophie, who soon makes friends with the women who answer the letters to Juliet.  Sophie happens to find a very, very old letter and writes back.

My thoughts: Most of this film is cute and fun to watch. Seyfried and Vane…

graphic novel review: Wilson by Daniel Clowes

The backstory: I've started paying attention to the Amazon picks of the month. They're usually spot on with fiction (which I'm most familiar with), and they often feature a graphic novel, young adult and children's book too. Genre picks don't appear every month, but when they do, they're certainly worth noting. Wilson popped up in April, and I promptly requested it from the library. I haven't read Daniel Clowes before, but I did see the GhostWorld movie in the theater.

The basics: Wilson is the story of Wilson. Unlike any other graphic novel I've read, each page is a different short story or chapter. Clowers uses a variety of drawing and color styles. As the book begins, the chapters seemed more like loosely connected stories about Wilson; they were episodes in his life. As the novel moves on, the story began to seem more linear.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. It was laugh-out loud funny at times, although some of his humor (intentionally, it se…