Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Thursday, July 30, 2009

"All He Ever Wanted" by Anita Shreve

At the beginning I found I was not thrilled with this novel, the 3rd Anita Shreve novel I've read. It didn't grab me right away like her others did, and the narrator seemed to be a colossal bore. But I stuck it out. A book has to be REALLY bad for me to lay it down and never pick it up again. Happily, it turned out to be not nearly as bad all the way through.

However, I have put off writing this review for a surprising three weeks now, and I find I still don't have much to say about it. It was a decent book, better than a mind-numbing romance novel, but I think I am beginning to see why Anita Shreve's novels always seem to end up on the bargain book rack. They are good enough, but not great. Although I REALLY did enjoy her novel The Last Time They Met.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"The Amnesiac" by Sam Taylor

This is the best book I have read in a long time. I didn't have time to read it uninterrupted, but I was so eager to get back to it any time I was away. Reading this book felt delightfully like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Each puzzle piece I found snapped right in with the ones before, although I didn't have the box top photo as a guide and I had to wait as the big picture gradually came into view. There were a few times that I was handed a puzzle piece which at first didn't fit anywhere (namely, the main character's odd conversations with first the librarian and then the horoscope writer in the pub) but eventually even those pieces fit in snugly. And, surprisingly enough, when I found at the end of the book that I didn't have all the pieces to the puzzle and the picture was incomplete, rather than being disappointed and frustrated, I found I liked the book all the more.

Most times I am annoyed by books that are so vague that you basically have to write them yourself in your mind; not that I mind the work or the extra thought, but that I feel there is one "right answer" and I'm not certain I've hit upon it. But I did not mind the ambiguity in this book, and it is explained on page 327 as the main character muses, "Someone should write a true-to-life detective story... an existential mystery in which the answer is not to be found, clear and logical, at the book's end, but only to be glimpsed, or half-grasped, at various moments during its narrative; to be sensed throughout, like a nagging tune that you cannot quite remember, but never defined, never seen whole; to shift its shape and position and meaning with each passing day; to be sometimes forgotten completely, other times obsessed over, but never truly understood; not to be something walked towards but endlessly around." That is exactly what Sam Taylor has done with this book, and it works beautifully.

The book's plot reminded me of the concept of the movie Vanilla Sky. I was slightly disappointed at the sort of sci-fi explanation for the amnesia, but it was acceptable. Too, the recovered memories were somewhat of a letdown, as the build-up seemed to be towards something much more massive, but it was still a great read.

I am eager to re-read this book. I think it is one of those books that does not become boring for having its secrets revealed; I suspect it is a book that will reveal more secrets the second time around. I also plan to give a listen to the album "16 Lovers Lane" by The Go-Betweens, which I've never heard of but was frequently mentioned in the book. I wish I knew someone else who has read this book so I could discuss it with them! This would have been a great book for the First Saturday Book Club. I don't think Marshall would have wished this book were written in poem form. Oh, and this book, too, was only $3.97. Bonus!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Dead on Town Line" by Leslie Connor

This book was excellent. I found a hardcover copy on the "Bargain Books" rack for only $3.97, which was exciting enough in and of itself, and then it turned out to be a really great read too!

The story may not be especially unique (it reminds me of The Lovely Bones, as it is narrated by the ghost of a murdered girl, although of course the circumstances differ) but the way it is told certainly is. Rather than being written in prose, this story is (as the dust jacket proclaims) "beautifully crafted in free verse." It's so funny to me, to think back to all of the times I heard Marshall in The Most Awesome First Saturday Book Club wish that a book we were discussing had been written as a poem instead. Now I understand. This brief little book (only 131 pages) manages to convey all the necessary information with plenty of suspense, and packs a punch as strong as a full-length murder mystery novel. Not only that, but (although I didn't time myself) I'm guessing it took me less than an hour to read.

One thing that bothered me about the story was not knowing if the murderer would be caught and punished. It was clear that the murderer's accessory would be found out due to evidence, but I worry that the murderer would never be exposed. The murderer's intellect and sense of self-preservation, in contrast with the accomplice's slow-wittedness and cracking under pressure, combined with the lack of evidence of the murderer's involvement, was frustrating. The victim's ghost wasn't able to "hang around" long enough to see this through.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Coming Soon: New books I'm excited about!

I found some bargains at Books-A-Million last night and I am looking forward to getting started on them . . . whenever I finally finish Catch-22. Yes, it's taking me forever. But I'm going to make it. It's not as if it is a bad book, or boring! Even so, I find I'm slogging through it, just like Hud did.

Anyway, back to the books I am excited about! I will leave the synposes for later, but here are the titles and authors:

The Amnesiac by Sam Taylor
Dead on Town Line by Leslie Connor
All He Ever Wanted by Anita Shreve
Thura's Diary by Thura Al-Windawi