Showing posts from March, 2011

book review: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin

The backstory: The Secrets Lives of Baba Segi's Wives is one of the nine debut novels on the 2011 Orange Prize longlist.

The basics: As the title implies, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives is indeed about the four wives of Baba Segi, a wealthy Nigerian businessman. His fourth wife, Belonle, has a college education, which is a concern for the other three wives.

My thoughts: Although the reader is treated to the inner mind of all four wives, the main character is the fourth wife, Bolanle, who narrates about half of the chapters. I identified most with Bolanle too, who felt like an outsider because of her education and displays an astounding amount of tolerance and patience for how she is treated.

This novel is filled with both a yearning for softness and a gritty, raw hardness of reality. At times it is quite graphic about sex and violence, but it never felt sensationalist; it was authentic. I was fascinated by the characters and the events in the novel, but I never marveled a…

Waiting on Wednesday: Next to Love by Ellen Feldman

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine to highlight an upcoming release you can't wait to read.
My pick this week is Next to Love, the upcoming novel from Ellen Feldman. I read Feldman's recent novel, Scottsboro, when it was shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 2009. It was one of my favorite reads of 2010, so I was thrilled to hear Feldman has a new novel coming out in July.

There's very little information about it yet, but Feldman's website offered this snippet: "When men go off to war, the lives of women and children change forever."

The publisher lists it as a historical family saga.

The only other information available is this glowing quote from Stacey Schiff: "a powerful, haunting, deeply ambitious novel about love and war, impeccably executed, impossible to put down."

Next to Love will be published by Spiegel & Grau on July 26, 2011. You can pre-order it from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon. It…

graphic memoir review: Special Exits by Joyce Farmer

The backstory: Entertainment Weekly named Special Exits one of the 10 best graphic novels of 2010.

The basics: Special Exits is a memoir of Joyce Farmer's experience caring for her aging parents as they struggle to care themselves in their Los Angeles home, which is in an increasingly run-down neighborhood.

My thoughts: I have been having incredible luck with graphic memoirs lately. I was utterly enchanted with Special Exits from the beginning and was sobbing into my coffee as I finished before work one day. Farmer tells the story with immense restraint. Lars and Rachel descend gradually into old age. Initially, they are too shy and proud to ask for the help of Laura (Special Exits is a memoir, but it's unclear precisely who Joyce is, but I assumed she is Laura). It's a subtle shift of power as Laura realizes how much Lars and Rachel need her.

As I read this book, which is as beautifully illustrated as is it hauntingly told with accompanying prose, I could not help but think…

book review: The Birth of Love by Joanna Kavenna

The backstory: The Birth of Love is longlisted for the 2011 Orange Prize.

The basics: "The year is 1865. In Vienna, Dr. Ignasz Semmelweiss has been hounded into an asylum by his medical peers, ridiculed for his claim that doctor's unwashed hands are the root cause of childbed fever. In present-day London, Bridget Hughes juggles her young son, husband, and mother as she plans her home birth. Somewhere in 2153, in a world where humans are birthed and raise in breeding farms, Prisoner 730004 is on trial for concealing a pregnancy." (from the publisher)

My thoughts: Jackie warned me this novel had no plot, but I also knew both she and Andi loved it, so I was intrigued, as my taste tends to be somewhat similar to both of theirs. They are both mothers, so I was curious how I would react as a non-mother. The short of it: I loved it. I find it fascinating Kavenna chose to have two of her four narrators be men. For me, it was the perfect bridge to allow men and non-mothers entrance…

On lending e-books

It's no secret I love my Kindle. If I could afford to only read on my Kindle, I would. When lending books for the Kindle became an option, I made a Google document with all of the books I owned that could be lent and shared it with all of my friends and family who also had Kindles. I liked the idea of sharing books, as I've never been one to hoard books I've read (books I have yet to read are a different story. My bookshelves tell a different story about me: the books I think I want to read someday but never seem to.) 
My Google document just got blown out of the water by ebookfling. The concept is simple and similar to Paperback Swap: lend a book, get a credit. Borrow a book for a credit. I chose to manually list my Kindle books with them, but you can also import your library. I have several books I want to read soon (mostly the Orange Prize longlist), and I won't loan them until I've read them. Not all Kindle books are loanable of course, but when you add a book…

book review: The Seas by Samantha Hunt

The backstory: The Seas is on the 2011 Orange Prize longlist. It's also the shortest book on the longlist, so I started with it.

My thoughts: Imagine you are Samantha Hunt. Your debut novel, which was published in the U.S. in 2004 and mostly forgotten gets a new life with its publication in the UK last year. Then it gets nominated for the Orange Prize, two years after your second novel, The Invention of Everything Else, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. It's a lovely story, and I was looking forward to reading this "modern retelling of the little mermaid story."

I am not a reader drawn to fairy tales. I'm drawn to strong writing and strong characters. The Seas was hard to read because although the writing was strong the characters were not. I did not attempt to summarize this novel because it slowly unfolds over time. Our unnamed narrator gives more details as time goes on, but she remains mysterious. I'm tempted to call her an unreliable narrator, but I &…

Sunday Salon: Moving

Happy Sunday Monday, everyone! Things have been a bit quiet at the blog here because Mr. Nomadreader and I moved into our very own apartment for the first time. Yes, after five years together, we've always managed to live with (fantastic) roommates, housemates or our parents; it was time to strike out on our own. Yesterday, we moved the furniture and are happily settling into our lovely apartment. We were blessed with gorgeous spring weather yesterday; it was 60 degrees and sunny. Today? Yes, it's snowing again.

I am so in love with our apartment. My favorite part: a reading nook off the living room where we're putting two chairs. I will spend so much time in the overstuffed one reading with my feet propped up on the ottoman. Soon, I will return to my reading of the Orange Prize longlist and be writing reviews with all of thoughts. I'll post pictures of it soon enough (once I find the box with the camera in it, perhaps.) Packing and moving has severely cut into m…

On Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss

The backstory: Despite really dislikingMockingjay, the third novel in the Hunger Games series, I've been following the movie news quite carefully. The casting of Katniss (and Peeta and Gale) is crucial. When news broke yesterday that Jennifer Lawrence had been cast, I was deeply saddened. She's not the right choice, and her casting worries me.

My thoughts: This morning, Entertainment Weekly posted an interview with Gary Ross, the film's director, calling it the easiest casting decision of his life. He responds to critics who think she's too old (Lawrence will turn 21 in August; Katniss is 16 in the first book):
"First of all I talked to Suzanne extensively about this. Suzanne saw every single audition. And not only did Suzanne not have an issue with Jen’s age, she felt you need someone of a certain maturity and power to be Katniss. This is a girl who needs to incite a revolution. We can’t have an insubstantial person play her, and we can’t have someone who’s too yo…

The 2011 Orange Prize Longlist: A U.S. Reader's Guide

The wait is over, friends, and the Orange Prize longlist is here! How well did my predictions hold up? I correctly guessed seven of the twenty novels and had another three on my longer list of 34 novels. Many of the ones I wasn't familiar sound absolutely fabulous. This list spans the globe, and I'm looking forward to diving into my longlist reading!

The ones I've already read: Room by Emma Donoghue (6 stars) - my favorite read of 2010A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (5 stars) - a top-five read of 2010Great House by Nicole Krauss (4.25 stars) The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer (4.5 stars)Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (4 stars)The ones available in the U.S. now: Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela (also available on the Kindle)The Pleasure Seekers by Tishani Doshi (also available on the Kindle)The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (also available on the Kindle)The Seasby Samantha Hunt (only $2.99 on the Kindle!