Category Archives: Reading

Book Review: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret FanSnow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me a while to get into this book, mainly because of the way the story was told. It annoys me when stories are told in the past seemingly for no other purpose than to allow the narrator to sprinkle in phrases like “but I didn’t know then what I know now.” I also couldn’t get into Lisa See’s prose. I’m not crazy about simple, declarative sentences in fiction; I am more interested by more color.

Once the story picked up, I was able to forget about those nits. Reading about the everyday lives of women in China in the first part of the nineteenth century was fascinating (and horrifying – I had to walk away from the book more than once during the footbinding part). As to the actual plot of the book, it broke my heart time and again. Life during that time period was uncertain, and the characters are often constrained by strict adherence to tradition. In that context, the endurance of Lily and Snow Flower’s relationship makes for a great story.

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Book Review: Death on the Nile

Death on the NileDeath on the Nile by Agatha Christie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I was growing up, we had a fish named Poirot. I knew his namesake was Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, but Death on the Nile was the first Poirot book I’ve read.

It’s also the first Agatha Christie book I’ve read in a long, long while – and now I consider myself hooked. Prepare to see more Agatha Christie reviews (or non-reviews, as I don’t think one can really review a murder mystery without giving too much away) on here.

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reading up a storm

Despite what I may have said in the past, I’m helplessly addicted to my Kindle. My parents gave it to me for my birthday, and I have barely set it down since then.

Photo 307

glued to my Kindle

It’s completely revolutionized my commute. It doesn’t take me that long to get to work – it’s only about a 20-minute journey, assuming that my train is waiting for me on the platform (which it rarely is, and, when it is, it usually means it will continue sitting there for another 5 minutes, waiting for ambiguous “signals ahead”) – but I usually have to stand in the mornings, and I seem to always have someone’s purse jabbing into my kidney or some heavily perfumed person standing in far too close proximity to my face. I would arrive at work feeling crabby (or, as my friend would say, with my threat level going through the roof), which is never a good start to the day.

Now, though, I can read on the way to and from work. I feel completely removed from the sardine-like scene on the train. Honestly, I’m surprised I’ve never missed my stop.

I’ve been on quite a reading tear. I’ve made my way through The Help, The Paris Wife, The Sun Also Rises, Then Came You, The Corrections, and Use Me, and I’m about a third of the way through The Marriage Plot. (Although I’m reserving judgment on The Marriage Plot, thus far I’m enjoying it. I was anxious to read it because its author, Jeffery Eugenides, wrote The Virgin Suicides, which is one of my favorite books, and Middlesex, which is one of my least favorite books.) At some point, I’ll update my Goodreads and post the results here … but for now, I’m too busy reading.

Book Review: The God of Animals

The God of AnimalsThe God of Animals by Aryn Kyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not too long ago, I wrote a blog post about e-book readers, citing my love for used books as the number one reason that I didn’t want such a reader. The God of Animals is a perfect example of why I love used books. I wouldn’t have picked up this book on my own – I had never heard of it, and horses, like the one on its cover, aren’t among my favorite animals – but I came across this book in a book exchange at a library in Honduras, and it was the only English language book that wasn’t a thick genre paperback or non-fiction. (I traded a rather embarrassing crime thriller and some coins for it.) I intended to read it on that same trip, but I got side-tracked, and then I brought it home and put it on my bookshelf.

I came across it again recently, and I can’t believe that I let it sit unread on my bookshelf for so long! The story centers around Alice, whose family raises and trains horses. Alice’s dad is the centerstone of their family: her mother has severe and untreated depression, and her superstar older sister dropped out of high school and ran away with a rodeo cowboy six months before the opening of the book. Alice is a hard worker, helping her dad with the horses and worrying about their ever growing money problems, but she’s also struggling to figure out who she is. She struggles even more when two wealthy females are introduced to her life: first Sheila, who is learning to ride at their barn, and then Patty Jo, who is boarding her horse there.

Aryn Kyle paints such a picture that I had no trouble envisioning their barn, and, even though I’m not particularly familiar with the desert myself, I could feel the heat of the long drought. Even the parts that I thought I wouldn’t like – the parts that deal with the day-to-day chores around the barn and with the horses – I found fascinating. I am a big fan of this book.

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Book Review: Choke

ChokeChoke by Chuck Palahniuk

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The back of this book has a quote from the Houston Chronicle: “Palahniuk has a vision that’s as distinctive as it is disturbing. Like it or loathe it, Choke cannot be dismissed. Nor can it’s creator.”

I think that’s all pretty accurate. I had a horrified (and completely grossed-out) look on my face for most of this book, but I couldn’t stop reading it. The narrator is absolutely not a good guy, and the sex scenes are plentiful and much more explicit than I expected, but I found the way that Palahniuk told the story hypnotizing. You could really sense the narrator’s disillusionment and confusion with his own life.

I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone with a sensitive disposition (or anyone who wants to read on the train – this is not the kind of stuff you want people reading over your shoulder), but it was strange and interesting and unlike anything I’ve read.

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Book Review: The Abstinence Teacher

The Abstinence TeacherThe Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had picked this up and put it down in a few bookstores before I saw it for $1 at the Housing Works booksale. Sold! It’s a quick book to read – most of it I read while standing on the subway on the way to and from work – but that’s not to imply that it’s fluffy. The book deals with some heavy subjects (primarily religious tolerance, but also individual spirituality, sexuality, and addiction), but the story moves along quickly without getting mired down in moralizing or theory. It found it both thought-provoking and highly entertaining, and it was definitely worth more than the dollar I paid for it!

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Book Review: Little Bee

Little BeeLittle Bee by Chris Cleave
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I felt like this book had a disproportionate amount of lead-up. The (cryptic) back of the book references “one fateful day” and “a terrible choice,” and this day is alluded to many, many times in the one hundred pages it takes to get us to that day. Once the story gets going, it’s heart-breaking and provocative, but it takes so long to get there that I abandoned the book at least once.

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