Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What I Read Wednesday

I am forever off on my days, thanks to constant days off and delays. Last week, I thought it was Wednesday when it was actually Thursday, hence the lack of a post. I've made up for it because I had a lot of time to read over this unexpected four-day weekend!

And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank
I requested this book from the library because I'm in a reading points competition with one of my top earning students, and this book is worth 57 points. It turns out that it's worth 57 points because it's 600 pages and filled with facts and figures. But it also turns out that it's a really fascinating true crime story of the killing of a young girl, child labor and the time in the early 1900s when the state of Georgia would rather put to death a Jewish man than an African-American man, though it seemed far more likely that the latter committed the crime. If you're interested in crime or history--or politics--this is actually one that I would recommend picking up and reading. The atrocities committed in this case just to continually convict Leo Frank, even though all signs pointed toward him being innocent, his death at the hands of a lynch mob, all add up to a part of US history that I was unaware of. Does this book prove his innocence 100%? No. Much of the evidence that could has been lost or destroyed. But does it leave reasonable doubt? Absolutely.

We Are Water: A Novel
I love Wally Lamb and as always, his books leave me with a punch in the stomach. This is more subtle than others. This is the story of Annie Oh, an "angry" artist who has divorced her husband and three grown children, to marry a woman, Viveca. Her husband and two of her children are amicable about it enough (at least on the surface), but her son, Andrew, a born-again Christian cannot accept it. As the story evolves, there are deeper reasons for Andrew's refusal to accept, as well as deeper reasons for Annie's anger, in a story that flashes back through Annie's childhood, her kid's childhood and even further back in history to weave together a strong, clashing story.

One of my students recommended this to me because she said it's like Divergent. I love student recommendations. Benson applies to Maxfield Academy because he's tired of being a foster child, but as soon as he arrives, he realizes that the prep school is not as it seems. There are no adults and students run the school, some more sadistic than others. Students are split into three groups: Society, Havoc and Variant, and you must choose one to survive. But even if you choose one, you can still get sent to Detention--a place in the basement from which no one ever returns. Although not the strongest YA book I've ever read, this definitely drew me in and kept me interested in the storyline and just what was going on at the school.

Feedback (Variant)
The sequel to Variant. Although I was excited to read on, the sequel kind of lagged for me. I assume this is where it ends because I don't see anything on Amazon about a third book (although I didn't look too hard). The sequel felt contrived and lacked a lot of substance, so that was disappointing. If there is a third book, I'll read it, but this isn't the best YA series I've ever read.

The Kept: A Novel
This was an interesting book because it started out really strong for me. Elspeth returns home after being away working as a midwife. Her first inkling that something is wrong is the lack of chimney smoke from her house. Her next is the carnage that greets her. Everyone in her family is dead, brutally murdered, except her 12-year-old son, Caleb, who in his fear and panic shoots her through the pantry door. Elspeth survives and she and Caleb set out to track down the trio of murderers who killed their family. This is one of those novels that is very dark and very heavy and you plod through a lot of dark and heavy prose through, well, pretty much the whole entire novel. It probably didn't help that I was reading this in the dead of winter, but after awhile, I just wanted it to end. I knew it wasn't going to end happily, so I just needed it to end. The storyline was engaging, but it just didn't hook me in enough to make me devour the book.

Before I Burn: A Novel (Lannan Translation Selection (Graywolf Hardcover))
This was another interesting novel. It was billed as crime novel, but it's not. At no point is it a secret who the criminal is. The author himself writes of a crime, a series of arsons that happened in the year of his birth that gripped his small town. The day before the last house is set on fire is his christening, so as he grows he hears the stories of these fires, of the arsonist and what was done to this community by his act--and how lives were irrevocably changed. It was a unique novel and flashes back between present and past. It isn't really non-fiction, but it's definitely not entirely fiction, either. I enjoyed it, but like The Kept, it was not a fast-paced novel.

Apple Tree Yard
52-year-old Yvonne Carmichael is on trial, a co-defendant in a crime with a man who was her lover. As the novel unfolds, we watch her affair unfold, as well. This is another novel billed as Gone Girl novel. I wasn't a huge fan of Gone Girl, so I'm always wary, but I really liked this one and tore through it. This isn't so much a psychological thriller, as it is a look at Yvonne herself. Her character flaws, her trusting nature that led her down this path and yes, the final question? Is she reliable? I found this book fascinating and the author wrote it tightly enough that parts still surprised me and left me reading back just to absorb what I'd just read. This was a good read.

What are you reading?


My Froley said...

I am also so off on my days. I thought today was Tuesday and almost carted my kid off to school in the morning (she only does the afternoons on Wednesday) and was so thankful when i realised it was half day, I got to spend the morning reading in bed. Just finishing the last book of the Hunger Games series. Can't put the thing down !

Tammy B said...

i enjoy your book reviews every week and am amazed by how many books you get through a week, kudos! are you on GoodReads? would love to follow you there

Lyndsay said...

Just finishing "Brain on Fire: my Month of Madness" by Susannah Cahalan.

Next up:
What Alice Forgot - Liane Moriarty

InTheFastLane said...

Here are my book reviews from the two books I finished this week - I stayed up a little late and ignored the State of the Union Speech to finish The Book Thief Last night (and cried). Still figuring out what book to start tonight:

The Book Thief:
I have to admit, that I started this book a long time ago. And I was so put off by the narration, that I didn't even get past the introduction before I put it away in favor of some other book that I had that interested me. But, with a couple days off from school/work and no where to go because of the cold, and some encouraging friends, I gave it another go. And I was hooked. I enjoy good historical fiction, and this was that. I liked the different perspectives that this book brought to World War II - the perspective of the every day German, who were caught in the middle of a war that they didn't start, the perspective of kids who were hungry and poor and yet making the most of every day, the learning and growing and giving hearts of humans during a dark time period in history, and finally the perspective of Death, as the narrator, who meets everyone at some point, but who took a special interest in what one girl did with her life to change her world and the people around her during theirs.

The Circle: First off, this was written, so obviously, with jabs at Google, that it got a little old. I don't like being obviously preached at. If you are going to preach at me, be a little more subtle. However, I stuck with it and even with all the ways the book bugged me, it was a good lesson in really thinking through our online life and how we use social media as well as our data and our human experiences. I have figured much of this out on my own as I spend a lot of time online, but as I heard an "expert" once say on TV "the Internet is a neutral medium." But it is how we chose to use it that defines it's goodness or evilness. And for me, that means keeping a good balance of real life interactions and experiences that are not always shared but owned only by ourselves, because we are human and alive.

Brooke said...

Love these posts!
Trudging through bookthief now.

Barb Ruess said...

First off - thank you for more book ideas and that goes to Lyndsay too this week!

I finished The Circle and agree with Sarah that it is awfully preachy but I chose to look past the preachiness and just enjoy it. It made me laugh and roll my eyes and I liked it.

I then tried to read Dissident Gardens and after 75 pages or so gave up. Blech.

I'm almost done with The Burgess Boys and eagerly looking forward to two more books on my nightstand. I hope I have more time to read this weekend.

And finally, you read A LOT OF BOOKS since your last post.

One crazed mommy said...

I've read quite a bit for me so far this year - hope that trend continues.
Recently finished The Widow File -Good. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - LOVED!!! and The Sisterhood - Great! Currently reading The Test - interesting story line - over halfway done, and enjoying it.
Next on my list are The Silent Wife, The Book Thief, Letters from Nam and The Husband's Secret.