Tag Archives: bookaday

May 19 – The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

Though I have to say that I thought this book would be more about birds than it was (and I was looking forward to reading about various species of birds and how the sisters in the book took care of them and treated them), The Bird Sisters truly impressed me. Not just because the writing was breathtaking in many places, but also because the book was not what I expected at all. In the end, I think, it was the idea of a bird – caged vs free – that was more important than the story of the actual birds themselves. The cages we create for ourselves. Often these are cages of our own making. The concept of what it means to “fly free” and how there can be many interpretations of what that means – allowing yourself to be free – giving others the opportunity for freedom – even at the expense of your own – and how that can be a form of freedom for yourself too…

As a writer myself, I am spellbound by books that are written in such a different voice than I could ever write – it totally amazes me and makes me feel smaller and more insignificant as a writer because I feel sometimes like, “Wow. I could never write this.” And that humbles me. In a good way. I sometimes have a hard time reading books that sound too much like my own voice or books whose characters and voice I identify with too much or wish that I could sound like – sometimes that just makes me depressed because I either feel like, “I could do that! Why am I not published yet.” Or alternatively, “Wow. I could never do that but I wish I could.” But with The Bird Sisters I didn’t feel that way at all. I was just wowed by the writer. Wowed by the story. It’s a story I could never have told in a voice I could never master and that was its charm and beauty.

One thing that bothered me a little bit – but I always feel this way in books that I read that don’t necessarily have “happy” endings – was that I wished I could have changed the ending. Perhaps widowhood/spinsterhood suited the sisters. Like I said above, perhaps for them – their choice was “freedom” – but the choices that they made could also be interpreted as creating “a cage of one’s own.” I was bothered by the ending, I wanted a different life for them – but I guess if the novel hadn’t bothered me so much it wouldn’t have stayed with me as much as it did – and that is what we want from good literature – to be challenged, to be bothered, to think.

I’ve been participating in a book club discussion of this book over at TNBBC on Goodreads. Check out TNBBC’s blog for more book giveaways and discussions. Thanks so much to Rebecca Rasmussen for participating in a discussion of the book – she has been busy traveling the country promoting her book and you can find out all about her and her book at http://www.thebirdsisters.com/.

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May 5 – Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

I enjoyed this book almost as much as I enjoyed The Glass Castle: A Memoir. I found Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novelless shocking, but no less eye-opening and enjoyable. I felt like I was introduced and transported to a completely different world and found it intriguing and vivid and real. Jeanette Walls is truly a talented storyteller. The book is hailed as “Laura Ingalls Wilder for adults” and while I see no reason why the Little House books are not for adults, I certainly agree with that assessment. Life on the prairie, on ranches, learning about the nitty gritty details of the lives of real ranchers and cowboys was not a topic I ever thought that I would find enjoyable or fascinating and yet in this book, they were both. In truth, it is a good idea to read the books in tandem, as Half Broke Horses explains a lot about Rosemary by way of Lily and in turn, Jeannette as well.

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May 3 – The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

My oh my. Now this was an amazing novel. So amazing that I couldn’t read it in one day because I didn’t want it to be over. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made my heart yearn to be an author more than ever. What more could you want in a book? Love stories, intrigue, mystery, amazing art, an aspiring author, social commentary, misery and disappointment. There was nothing this novel did not have. Barbara Kingsolver seriously outdid herself in The Lacuna and I only hope it doesn’t take her nine more years to write her next novel! I don’t think I can wait that long!

What amazes me most about Barbara Kingsolver is how different her novels are now. Her first few: Pigs in Heaven, The Bean Trees etc. were okay. But then she took off as an author and now each novel is really an entire universe unto itself – each one a magnum opus (though I think The Lacuna so far takes the cake). This novel is seriously Pulitzer worthy. I know it won the Orange Prize, but in my mind it deserves so much more.

Here I must share one of my favorite quotes from the novel: “I should like to write my books only for the dear person who lies awake reading in bed until page last, then lets the book fall gently on her face to touch her smile or drink her tears.”
Yup. That just about sums up my writing philosophy right there.

Read this book now and let its pages touch your smiles and drink your tears.

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May 2 – The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

I have to admit that this was a re-read, but I read the book so long ago that I felt as though I was reading it for the first time. I certainly enjoyed it as much if not more than the first time around! What I enjoyed the most this time was Wall’s engaging command of language – she kept me reading and interesting and enjoying her prose all at the same time – which is no easy feat. I was no less amazed by her story and her triumph against the odds than I was the last time I read it. I continue to be blown away by the way she was raised, by what she made of herself from the wreck of her childhood, but mostly by the grace and sympathetic way with which and in which she tells the story – never quite disparaging her parents, always finding the lesson, the silver lining or the lesson learned from every experience.

The Glass Castle: A Memoir is worth reading again, and again, and for the first time if you haven’t read it yet.

Now I’m off to read her newest book Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel in advance of my Wednesday night book club. The book club actually only read The Glass Castle: A Memoir but I would like to have read the newer book too so that I can recommend it as well. Will report back pronto with that review when finished!

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May 1 – The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

As gruesome as his descriptions of being a serious burn victim are, I still enjoyed Andrew Davidson’s novel The Gargoyle tremendously. Not only is it well written, but the unexpected story told by Marianne and how unreliable both his narration and hers become. It is at once a psychological thriller, a moral novel, a love story, a novel about art and sculpture, about religion and faith, a fantasy, historical fiction, a story about addiction and recovery and a story about hope – but more than all of these combined – an extremely well written novel.

I hope that Andrew Davidson has more for us, because I am ready and waiting for his next!

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April 30 – The Ghost Trap by K. Stephens

What I most enjoyed about this book was reading about the lives of lobster fisherman. I found the details about fishing for lobster absolutely fascinating. Though I liked the characters in the story and I found the depiction of small town Maine life very engaging – I most enjoyed the descriptions of being out on the open sea and the relationship that these fisherman have with the water. There were so many interesting traditions and superstitions about when to go out and when not to go out fishing – depending on the weather, the color of the sky, the color of the water and more – I truly felt that the author gave me a glimpse into a world I would never have learned about or come in contact with otherwise. Not only did this story make me want to go visit some of these small Maine villages and islands, but it made me want to go out on the open water and even meet the local people. Perhaps someday I will.

I also found the relationship between Anja and Jaime a fascinating one in that there are many people around the world who choose to care for and love a partner who has suffered from a traumatic brain injury or some other type of life threatening or debilitating illness or condition and I think that there was a lot to sympathize with here.

Thanks to K. Stephens and TNBBC for the opportunity to read this book and to participate in a discussion of the book and thanks to Leap Frog Press for enabling the giveaway and discussion to happen!

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March 22 Garner by Kirstin Allio – Coffee House Press

I can’t remember who recommended this book to me but I put it on my Bookmooch wishlist and when it came available I jumped at the chance to get it. The book is the first that I’ve read in a long time that is as lyrical as Anne Michael’s writing – which is a huge compliment from me. The descriptions of New Hampshire and the White Birch Trees are almost haunting. Every sentence like a piece of chocolate you want to savor and let melt on your tongue. Wow. This is an incredible book and it makes me want to not only find out what else Kirstin Allio has written but what else the Coffee House Press has published! Simply an amazing use of language. Poetic. Lyrical. Stunning.

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Feb 23 The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson

Wow. What an amazing book. I had been looking forward to reading one of Eva Ibbotson’s books for a really long time and so when The Star of Kazan finally came my way, I jumped at the chance. Annika is the loveliest of characters, though you can’t help getting a bit frustrated at her not seeing how evil and blatantly wrong her mother is, but more than anything I loved her descriptions of Vienna, of the pastries, and of how she learned to cook. This is what every young adult novel should be. Smart. Funny. Beautifully written. Old fashioned. Educational. A real coming of age novel.

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Feb 22 The Terrorist by John Updike

I enjoyed Terrorist: A Novel tremendously because John Updike is simply a master of the English language – and I found myself marveling at his stunningly constructed sentences more than I did at the plot. I feel like perhaps, has someone else written this same novel I would not have liked it as much because nobody could have written it like Updike has. Many reviews criticize the plot and the fact that perhaps Updike capitalized on post 9-11 politics and sentiments to write this novel, but I personally feel that it is only natural for every person to seek to make sense of the world around us and the experiences that we undergo and that while someone else may do this by speaking to a psychologist or coping in some other way, novelists make sense of the world around them by writing.

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Feb 21 Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

I think that Angelology: A Novel is not only one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, but also one of my favorites. I wanted to read the book in one day, but decided not to because I didn’t want the book to end. This book has everything: mystery, suspense, history and fantasy! And on top of all that, it’s well written, intellectual, literary and engaging. I highly recommend this book and can’t wait for the next one!

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