Tuesday, November 22, 2011

52 Books in 52 Weeks - #9

Taking a break from the crafting. I may finish up another project tonight, at the latest tomorrow afternoon - thus making this week's deadlines. Here's where the stats currently stand:

There are 32 more days to go and 33 projects. Hmm...guess I'd better step on it. Don't worry...I have a sneaking suspicion that I'll make a huge jump by the end of the weekend. I'll keep you posted.

I'll actually be sharing a project tomorrow night. I know, shocking right?

For tonight, we're talking books. And in case you're wondering, I'm still working on Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult. I'll be blunt. I DO NOT like it. I really need to finish it. (And ugh, I just found out that it's been nominated for best fiction of 2011 on Goodreads. I'm disappointed in people's judgment.)  I also found out today that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (AKA The Daniel Craig Extravaganza) is going to be released on December 21st. Since I want to finish the trilogy before then, I'm going need to get it moving. If Daniel Craig can't motivate me to finish this book, nothing can. (Insert daydream sequence here.)

But for tonight, I'm filling another three brackets.

I'm reviewing another five books from this year. And I promise, there's no shenanigans. I'm reviewing them in the order I've read them. And off we go...

1. Room by Emma Donaghue

2. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

3. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

4. A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

5. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

It's an odd batch. But unlike last time, I know exactly which one will win. I also know the wild cards. I'm feeling mighty smart this evening.

1. Room by Emma Donaghue

Finished : August 22          Rating : 4 out of 5 stars          Award : Oddest Narrator

Jack is five. He is the narrator. He lives with his Ma in Room. He knows no other place and no other person. He loves his home, but his mother is living a live of entrapment. She does her best to protect Jack, shutting him up in Wardrobe at night to keep him from Old Nick.

This is a book where the 20-page rule paid off. (When I start a book, I always give it 20 pages before I decide to stop reading it.) The rule saved this book and I'm glad it did.

When I first started reading, I was frustrated by the 5-year-old point of view and the difficult time I had understanding Jack's way of talking. By page 6, I really just wanted to give up. But I kept going. Though it was still sometimes difficult and I still got confused by his way of referring to items and activities, the point of view worked incredibly well for this story.

Now, that's not to say that I actually liked the story itself. The topic is horrendous and I found myself often nauseated by the things that take place. I say this as a testament to how well written it is. The book itself is fantastic, just the plot is a difficult story to read due to its complete upheaval of the human condition. Though this is a fictional account, it is based on real cases. The thought of living through such an experience made me realize how strong an individual can become when faced with adversity. The strength of Ma in this narrative is impressive. She stays as sane and resolute as she can under the circumstances, solely for the betterment of Jack.  She is a wonderful mother and, because of her love, Jack becomes an amazing boy despite the lifestyle he came to know. This book was definitely worth sticking it out. I would've missed out on a wonderful book had I put it down.

2. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

Finished : August 24          Rating : 3 out of 5 stars          Award : Lived up to Potential the Least

The story follows Rose Edelstein, who can understand people based on the taste of the food they make. She can identify ingredients and their sources - down to a particular town or manufacturer - in addition to the emotions of the chef at the time of creation.

It all begins with a taste of a chocolate frosted lemon cake baked by her mother. To Rose, it tastes like sadness.

I'm going to be blunt about this. This book was weird. Easily read, sure. Well-rounded characters, yup. Plot, just plain odd.

I think this book had great potential. The story could have blossomed in so many ways. There were opportunities that I felt should have been taken that weren't. The plot was occasionally left dead and empty when it temporarily had such promise. Just when I would get to a point where I thought "Here we go. This is about to get really good..." Nope. It stopped. The direction of the plot would change or the time frame of the story would jump to another year, another location. It was very frustrating.

Honestly, I was torn as whether to give it two or three stars. The sheer potential of this book is the only thing  that saved it from a two star rating. I found the story line of Rose's brother, Joseph extremely vague and frustrating. I'm certain that the vagueness was intentional, but because of it the story line containing the brother only detracted from the novel as a whole rather than adding the depth that it had the possibility of doing.

Overall, I suppose I just find myself disappointed and angry at having finished this book without getting what I wanted out of it.

3. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Finished : August 28          Rating : 5 out of 5 stars          Award : Best Controversial Plot

Skeeter is a college graduate who has moved back home to live with her parents in the summer of 1962. Her parents are well off and in the upper crust of Mississippi society. Skeeter is bothered by the way her well-to-do white friends and acquaintances treat their hired help. Civil liberties are minimal and in the deep South being vocal about the blatant racism is a dangerous thing. But Skeeter cannot be deterred. She sets out to use the experiences of the local maids to write a tell-all of Mississippi society.

I LOVED this book. I loved the characters. I loved the plot. The only thing I didn't love about it is that it left me wanting more. I wanted more time and follow up. This is honestly a book that could do very well with a sequel. At the end I didn't feel disappointed in any way, but I felt a strong desire to know more about the lives of Skeeter, Minny, Aibileen and Yule May after the story ended.

I know that there has been some controversy about this book,in fact this will probably prove to be my most controversial review of the year, but I think that it was very well written. Writing it from multiple points of view was definitely helpful in developing the story and keeping things more transparent for the reader. I think that there are balanced examples and a fair representation of the social climate of Mississippi in the 50's and 60's. I base this not on my own personal experience, but on the other novels I've read about the time period and the other information I have been exposed to regarding the civil rights movement in the United States.

I honestly didn't think I would like this book as much as I did. I thought it would be much less than it ended up being. I can't explain exactly what I expected, but I know that it did a magnificent job of getting me sucked in. I can definitely see myself reading this book again, without question.

4. A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

Finished : August 31          Rating : 4 out of 5 stars          Award : Best Animal Plot

The story follows Bailey through multiple lives as a dog. As he goes from breed to breed and owner to owner, he ponders his purpose in life, wondering where it will all go. He thinks he has found his life's journey when he becomes the beloved puppy of a boy named Ethan, but becomes uncertain when he is reborn once again.

I really enjoyed this book. I don't believe in reincarnation and I found the narration from the dog a little awkward at first, but I came to really enjoy the story. Both the good and the bad of humanity are represented in their interactions with the dog or with those surrounding him. The balance was very well worked out.

There were pieces of my own pets that I could identify with in the actions of the dog as he continued his journey - I think that made me love the story even more.

I became hooked after the start of his second lifetime and I struggled to put the book down. Though somewhat fantastical, the charm of this book overwhelms the need to be practical and realistic. I found that I didn't mind the fact that such a story was far fetched. It was beautifully written. I will definitely read this book again.

5. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Finished : September 14          Rating : 5 out of 5 stars          Award : Closest to Home

Henry Lee grows up in Seattle in the years leading up to WWII. He comes from a traditional Chinese background. His mother is quiet and reserved. His father is proud of his heritage and expects Henry to follow in his footsteps.

Henry has a scholarship to the white school in town, where he meets the only other cultural outsider in the student body. She is Keiko, a young Japanese American girl.

Though his father disapproves greatly of the Japanese and his son's interaction with her, Henry begins to fall in love with Keiko only to be devastated by her family's forced move into a Japanese internment camp as the war progresses.

I really enjoyed this book. I love historical fiction, but WWII was not a time period I had really spent much time with in the past. This was a great first book to try out for the era. The details were fantastic (except for one mistake near the beginning of the book about CDs, but I let that one go - even though it bugged me for a few pages).

I live just a few hours from the internment camp spoken about in the novel, so I found that even more interesting.

The writing is beautiful and the character of Henry is great. The supporting characters aren't as well developed, but they still tend to work well. I'm really glad that the book is structured the way it is - bouncing back and forth from past to present. Sometimes that can create a really disjointed story line, but in this case I think it worked in favor of strengthening the book as a whole. This is a book I will be reading again.

The Conclusion :

So there you go, a pretty mixed group right? Though based on the reviews I've read you either love it or you hate it, my decision for the winner of the bracket is The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I obviously loved it.

As for the wild cards, it wasn't a difficult decision. I'm going with A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. (And here I will say thank you to Erin, who has suggested quite a few of the top books this year.)

Now back to the advent calendar...

1 comment:

  1. Not gonna lie... I'm a handy friend to keep around... ;)


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