Thursday, March 29, 2012

Emily's Ghost by Denise Giardina

Wuthering Heights is my all time favorite book.  If I had a son, I would name him Heathcliff.  Heathcliff has ruined me for all men.  I'm going to spend my whole life waiting for someone to love me the way he loved Cathy.  But that's okay because it's better than glaring at the man you're with and wishing he were someone else, right?

I wanted to read this because I was going to try to include in my summer vacation a visit to the the area the Bronte sisters called home.  I ended up not going, the travel plans started to get too complicated.  Also, this book described the area as being so harsh, especially during that time period when Emily lived, I sort of lost my desire to visit.

This is a completely imagined story.  I don't think there is any proof that Emily ever had a love interest.  As fans, we assume there must have been someone, someone secret that we know nothing about, because how else could she have written so passionately about love?

The author has taken this idea and created a world in which Emily does fall in love.  We also see her interacting with her family and community.  It's an interesting story, even if it is all imagined.

I enjoyed the romance, though they never quite reach a Cathy and Heathcliff level of passion.  As expected, the ending is sad.  We know she isn't going to live happily ever after. 

It's a well written story.  I liked it, but wasn't blown away by it.  There are several books about the Bronte sisters on my "to-read" list, but I've not gotten around to them yet, so I can't compare them.  I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this one to any Emily Bronte fans.   

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Review: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

I loved this book. I love everything about it: the setting - New York City, 1938; the characters - an interesting variety of working-class citizens trying to make it in the big city alongside some trust fund babies; the way the story flowed - As I was reading it, I had no idea what was going to happen next and kept finding myself surprised and intrigued. I didn't want this story to end. Too often books start out well, and then disappoint me in the end. I was bracing myself for that because I couldn't believe that a book that started so well could continue in that manner - but it did.

What I liked most about the book were the strong women characters. The story is about Katherine Kontent (what a great name), and how she chooses to navigate her life in a city that will "turn you inside out." But as she's making her decisions, readers are also made aware of other women in the city, and the choices they make, determined to live on their own terms. 

I will confess to being somewhat sexist in what I choose to read.  I generally avoid books written by men.  That's a terrible thing to say isn't it?  But seems like anytime I read a book written by a man, I find myself annoyed by the portrayal of women, so I started to avoid them.  But Amor Towles has created characters that ring truer than just about any I've ever read.  Very, very glad I decided to go against my "rule" of not reading new male authors.

I realize this review is vague with regard to the content of the novel, but I don't want to give away too much, because as I mentioned earlier, one of my favorite things about the book is that I had no idea what to expect with each page.

This is one of those books I'm going to recommend to anyone who asks what they should read next. Actually I'm probably going to go ahead and recommend it to those who don't ask for recommendations.

I checked it out from the library, but recently, I bought a copy for my Kindle because I liked it so much I'm certain I'll be reading it again a few more times.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

When I first heard about this book, I thought it sounded amazing.  Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite writers, and this book is all about history and religion, and I assumed it would have a heavy dose of magic.

I was on the waiting list at the library before the book was even released.  But after I checked it out, it sat there for three weeks and then had to be returned - untouched.  I was reading other books.  It looked so heavy and it was around the holidays when I needed my reading to provide somewhat enjoyable escapes from reality.

I decided to check out the audio version of the book.  I spend so much time in the car, time wasted listening to crappy pop music.  Might as well be productive with my time.

While I'm glad I listened to it because I don't know that I would have stuck with it had I been reading it, I am also concerned that listening to it versus reading it might have effected my impression of the story.  There were four different narrators for this book, as the book tells the story of four different women in the days before the siege of Masada.  At times I found the characters to be so annoying, and I'm not sure if it was because of what the characters were saying and doing or because of the voice.  I know that at least one of the voices annoyed me horribly.  I found myself mimicking her words as I drove along listening to the story.

I didn't find this book as amazing as I'd expected it to be.  I found it very interesting, and listening to this prompted me to learn more about what happened in Masada.  Reading about the remains discovered at the sight made Hoffman's ending particularly interesting.

I thought the book was a little long.  I think the same story could have been told with a few less words.  There were times when I found the story dragged, too much repetition.  Also, I didn't like the characters very much.  I understand that as readers we're supposed to view them as strong, fierce women, but I wasn't that impressed.  I grew tired of hearing the first woman go on about her love for a man who simply used her because he'd grown tired of his wife and there was no one else around.  She kept referring to him as if he were the great love of her life, but from my perspective he didn't seem like a great man at all.  He took advantage of a young girl, got her pregnant, all while his wife and other children are sleeping in the tent next to them.  This happened to the first character in the story, and that might have set the tone for the rest of the book. 

Several of these women seemed to be okay with getting involved with married men.  I didn't find their actions to be strong or admirable, but rather pathetic.  Were we really supposed to feel sympathetic for them?  How are we supposed to feel for the wives being betrayed?  They're also women, suffering through these same harsh circumstances.

Mostly, I was disappointed by the lack of magic.  Oh, there were bits and traces, but much, much less than the typical Hoffman book.  This was, for the most part, a historical novel.  I'm glad I listened to it, but I didn't love it.