Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What I Read Wednesday

The Orchid House
It seems like a thing to do in recent years is write a book that is both modern day and a period piece. It doesn't often work for me and I wish books could just be one or the other. This was a case where I really mostly just wanted the book to be a period piece, although I was a little bit interested in the modern storyline. In the modern day, Julia is depressed and dealing with a tragedy that involves that loss of her son and husband, though the reader is only slowly let in on the exact details. She's living in the shadow of a once great English manor home, Wharton Park. After the discovery of a diary in the home, the book flashes back to the WWII era and travels through London society, Bangkok, broken hearts and love affairs. I liked the parts of the novel that took place during the war. I was indifferent, mostly, to the parts that took place in the present and found it to be pretty contrived.

Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness
I've wanted to read this since reading Born To Run because the author spoke so highly of Scott Jurek, particularly the way that he will win an ultramarathon and then stay at the finish line to cheer on the rest of the competitors. Can you imagine if the winner of a 5k stayed at the finish line to cheer on everyone who crossed, even the people who finish in over an hour? That doesn't happen, yet Jurek runs for 16 hours and stays at the finish line. I was pretty impressed by this. I enjoyed his book and his stories of how he dug deep in various races and how running has brought him so many places. His diet was also interesting and how he believes it's made him a stronger, leaner runner. No way could I commit to veganism, but my diet and running could probably benefit from more lean protein and less nachos and maybe a smoothie that isn't a milkshake here and there.

The Goldfinch
I've been on the wait list for this book forEVER. I've been anxious to read it because I've heard mixed reviews from people who either loved it or hated it. I loved it (sorry friends who did not). The book opens with the protagonist, Theodore Decker, as a child in trouble at school at the art museum with his mom before a meeting with his principal. After viewing a painting she loves (The Goldfinch), his mom wanders into a different gallery and Theo sidles closer to a girl who caught his eye--until the museum is rocked with an explosion. Theo miraculously survives and the course of his life is set from this moment, sometimes coming together, sometimes falling apart. This is not a short book and not an easy book. Sometimes Theo's life set my teeth on edge and made me want to scream, but I was drawn in to his story. He made mistakes, hundreds, but I still found myself rooting for him.

Radiance of Tomorrow: A Novel
This is by the same author of A Long Way Gone, which I read last week. It's fiction (that could be non-fiction) about return to life after civil war in Sierra Leone. In the village of Imperi, the elders return first, burying the bones of the dead--wondering which belong to them. Slowly, the survivors trickle back in and the village is rebuilt, only to have their beautiful, slowly thriving village destroyed as a mining company moves in. This story is beautifully and painfully written--you can feel the characters' struggles and the way they just want to be, but their country, their birthright just won't let them. This is one that will stay with me for awhile.

What are you reading?


Barb Ruess said...

I'm still on the waiting list for Goldfinch but I think I'm NEXT on the list!

I just finished Paris Trout. A book set in the south probably in the 40s (I don't think it says) and told from different character perspectives. I enjoyed it though Paris Trout is one mean SOB.

Next up is Dave Eggers The Circle!

One crazed mommy said...

I just finished Flowertown - go read it! I could not put it down! It's about a chemical spill in rural Iowa, in which those involved are quarantined from the rest of the world - 7 years later the army is leaving, supplies are dwindling and things are not getting better. The inhabitants are taking drugs to prevent them from being poisoned, however it gives off a sickly sweet smell...hence the name Flowertown. The main character has basically given up on life - she smokes pot, fraternizes with an army "Guy" she shouldn't be, and has tendencies toward rage. Her paranoid best friend keeps spewing out these conspiracy theories, which she blows off...until things start happening in Flowertown. Lots of twists and turns, and it will keep you flipping the page!

InTheFastLane said...

Less nachos? Phooey. Totally not worth it.

I also Loved Goldfinch (which you know, but I felt the need to repeat myself).

I finished Wave (which I mentioned last week) - it wasn't a long book, but I found that it was so emotionally wrenching that I had to read it in small chunks.

Currently I am reading The Husband's secret. I am liking it so far, but THREE separate story lines to start the book? I assume they all merge into one at some point, I hope, because thats a lot to keep track of.

I also have The Circle on my next to read list.

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

I am starting The Orphan Train this weekend. I finished The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio this week. It sounds sort of similar to The Orchid House with time travel.