5 May, 2017

Sister Reads | Book Reviews for March and April

We haven’t forgotten about our book reviews! We encountered a blip last month, but a good one: Vernell came over for a visit, and we were too busy catching up to think about blogging. Are we forgiven?

I read a grand total of four books in March and got back on pace in April with a whopping five reads! I’m still about 6 books behind schedule for my 2017 goal, but I’m getting there!

Devil Bones by Kathy Reichs

While I enjoy Bones the TV show, I am totally “meh” about Kathy Reichs’ books. This is the second or maybe third I’ve read, and I’m now sure that this genre is not for me. I should say no longer for me, as I did enjoy this kind of book when I was younger. The story was interesting, and kept my interest all the way through, but I found the writing and plot formulaic at best.

Ed King by David Guterson

I got this because I loved Snow Falling on Cedars by the same author. It’s completely different though, completely! Ed King is a retelling of Oedipus Rex for modern times. Although you know what’s coming, you can’t believe it when it happens. And then you think “Oh yeah, this makes sense, he’s supposed to do that”. I enjoyed the story, it kept me reading, if only to see how he would make the two critical parts happen, but once again this was a book with the kind of pacing I don’t enjoy, where the last section of the book covers a long period of time in much fewer chapters than the beginning. I did enjoy Guterson’s interpretation of an Internet millionaire though, and his description of what the world would be like in the future (what would have been the future when he wrote it, that is).

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

I’ve owned this book for about a year, and couldn’t bring myself to read it because of the subject matter. This is Didion’s memoir about the year after her daughter fell sick, and then abruptly lost her husband. After selecting it for the Sister Reads March book, I had no choice though, and I’m glad that I finally read it.

Her approach to grief seems much like mine would be (I think, but you never know do you?). it’s honest and raw, and you can really feel that she is analyzing what is going on, and that is her way of dealing with everything. It’s clear that this is a book she needed to write for herself, no doubt another of her ways of dealing with her grief.

The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde

I will admit to groaning when I received this book as a gift after reading the back cover (sorry honey!), as I thought it would be a very cheesy and corny tale.

The Gingerbreadman—sadist, psychopath, cookie—is on the loose in Reading, but that’s not who Detective Jack Spratt and Sergeant Mary Mary are after. Instead, they’ve been demoted to searching for missing journalist “Goldy” Hatchett. The last witnesses to see her alive were the reclusive Three Bears, and right away Spratt senses something furry—uh, funny—about their story, starting with the porridge.

In fact the story is so very well done, and incredibly funny to boot. Like laugh out loud and snort funny. Jack Spratt is the Chief Inspector of the Nursery Crimes Division, which investigates, what else?, crimes committed by and/or affecting Nursery Rhyme characters. You read about some of your favourites, and also learn that cucumber growing can be quite dangerous!

This is actually the second of the Nursery Crime books, and I now plan to read the first!

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry

Fredrick Backman is now firmly on my list of favourite authors of all time. I didn’t think I could love a character more than Ove, but 7 year old Elsa has my heart. Maybe it’s because I have a child the same age (though I can’t imagine him doing half the things Elsa gets up to). This book is full of fairy tales that you soon realise mean something much deeper and more important. From an onery grandmother, who basically lived her life as though she had no f*cks left to give, a loving mother in the background, a nerdy father, sporty step-father, and once again an entire cast of interesting characters, I was swept away to Elsa’s world. Backman is so good at this his; story telling and character development is above par, and he has a way of hitting at all your emotions. I laughed, I cried and gave a happy sigh once I read the last page.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Would you believe I’ve only just started reading Gaiman? One of my reading challenge goals this year was to finally read some authors I’ve been wanting to, and as luck would have it, Amazon had a couple of his books as Kindle deals in April. I started with Anansi Boys, because I grew up hearing Anansi stories so I was intrigued to read his interpretation of them. I was not disappointed. The story is about Fat Charlie, who didn’t know that his father was a god until his death, or that he had a brother who is also a god. The book is an interesting mix of real life and spookiness, with travel to magical worlds, and real-life villains becoming the instrument of mystical creatures. It’s set in London and Florida, but ends on a fictional island in the Caribbean. I have to give Gaiman props for his depiction of the Caribbean and its inhabitants, I felt like I was back home whenever he described the island of St.Andrews.

Taft by Ann Patchette

I really enjoyed this story of  ex-drummer turned bar manager Nickel, who gets embroiled with a teenage brother and sister duo working at his bar. Well the sister officially worked at the bar, the brother ended up working the bar so to speak. The siblings recently lost their father and are new to Memphis (totally great setting for the story by the way). While getting deeply involved with their problems Nickel becomes somewhat obsessed by their father and dreams up his own reconstruction of the events leading to his death. At the same time he is trying to reconcile with his ex who moved away with their son, and this adds yet another layer to the story. Not Ann Patchett’s best, but a good read nonetheless.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards

I hesitated before buying this one, because the story line of a father giving away his daughter that was born with Down’s Syndrome, and telling his wife that the baby dies, made me think about one of those cheesy family dramas. The book is nicely written though, and really explores the feelings of all involved. The couple actually had twins, a boy as well as the daughter, and we get to follow the sorry of him growing up thinking his twin had died, the grief of his mother dealing with it, and his father’s regret and turmoil over the lie he told his family. At the same time we follow the life of Caroline, the woman who took the baby, and that of Phoebe the daughter. I found the ending somewhat frustrating, but quite enjoyed the story.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Neil Gaiman number two! And I’m hooked! This is a wonderfully spooky tale about what happened to a seven year old after his family’s lodger committed suicide at the bottom of their lane. He’s taken under the wing of an 11 year old neighbour, Lettie,but she is a girl like no other he has ever known. I got totally immersed in the magical worlds and the fight between good and evil taking place. The main character has returned to his old town as an adult to attend a funeral, and finds himself seeking out his old home. He ends up at the farmhouse where Lettie lived, but she’s no longer there, as he remembers, but meets her mother and grandmother, who are surprisingly, unchanged from when he knew them 40 years before. As he sits next to the pond he falls into a reverie of the fantastic adventures he had with this family, and comes to understand things that he didn’t when he was a boy. A truly immersive read if you love fantasy.

I realised at the end of April that I only read books on Kindle the entire month. I’ll definitely be changing that up in may, I need the feel and smell of paper again!

Head on over to see what Vernell read these past two months.

What are you reading right now?