Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What I Read Wednesday

The Shakespeare Conspiracy (A Christopher Klewe Novel Book 1)
Although I'm an English teacher, I will admit that I am more of an American lit person, so my Shakespeare knowledge is sadly limited. I did not realize that there were possible questions about Shakespeare's ethnicity until reading this book and doing a little Google research.
I enjoyed this book. It opens with Mason Everly, a retired history professor, brought down by a dagger in his back, while his killer chants about making his praise. In the meantime, Christopher Klewe, a professor well-versed in Shakespeare lore, discovers Mason's death and wonders if it relates to the theory he and Everly were trying to prove--that Shakespeare was not white, as portrayed in paintings. Mason's death sparks Klewe to travel across the Atlantic to Europe, to trace Everly's final steps and follow the clues he left behind.
I loved that this book was full of facts about Shakespeare and other things--I enjoy it when fiction still weaves in non-fiction elements. I was definitely engaged in the mystery, though like any mystery novel, parts seemed a little contrived. Overall, this was an enjoyable, fun read.
**I did receive a copy of this book for free to review, but all opinions are--as always--my own.**

Charlie, Presumed Dead
I was pretty ambivalent about this book. First, it contained a lot of cliches that seemed to be easily lifted from popular culture. Second, most of the book was slow and kind of boring, until the last ten pages--when it suddenly went into warp speed. Is there a sequel? I'm not sure, but it was annoying to have it get somewhat interesting and then finish abruptly. The gist is that a boy named Charlie dies in a plane crash, leaving behind only a bloodied jacket. At his funeral, his girlfriend Aubrey discovers that Charlie has another girlfriend--Lena. The two form a clumsy relationship over a shared belief that Charlie isn't dead and head to Mumbia and Bangkok to find him. Aubrey is also searching for her journal, which she says holds a horrible secret that could wreck her life. In the end, there were too many moments of suspending my disbelief to make this book enjoyable.

Saint Mazie: A Novel
While reading this book, Tommy pointed at the picture of Mazie on the cover and said, "Mama, she looks just like you!" Aww. This is loosely inspired by a true story. Mazie Phillips is a loud party girl, who loves good times and fun men. When the Great Depression hits, however, Mazie can't stand to see the down and out men on the street, so she uses her position as ticket taker of a theatre to help them. In this, she becomes known as Saint Mazie. This story is told through her diary entries, interspersed with interviews and accounts from other people. I absolutely loved the story of Mazie and her life. I don't know how factual it is to the actual story, but as a work of fiction, it was incredibly engaging. Mazie was such a well-developed character that I couldn't help but love her and hang on to her every word.

Our Souls at Night: A novel
Kent Haruf is one of my favorite authors. Knowing that this was his last book made me want to savor it, but I couldn't help becoming completely immersed and finishing it in one sitting. Like all of Haruf's novels, this is set in Holt, Colorado. The story begins with a lonely widow, Addie Moore, approaching a lonely widower, Louis Waters, with a proposition. Addie hates sleeping alone and wonders if Louis would like to share her bed. This arrangement is nothing sexual, it is purely about wanting a voice to say goodnight to, a hand to hold as you fall asleep. Of course, Holt being a small town, people begin to talk about Louis and Addie. Like all of Haruf's books, there is no huge climactic ending or plot twist. It is simply in the average lives of humans that his words bring beauty, as always. Knowing that Haruf wrote this novel while he was dying makes the subject matter all the more poignant.

What are you reading?


Lyndsay W said...

Ohhh Kent Haruf.... so sad. Love his book (thanks to you).

I'm reading 'How to Start a Fire'... I haven't had a good long chunk of time to sit and read so I'm having a hard time really getting into it because of all the jumping around time-wise. But I just went back and read your review and am newly committed to getting into it.

I'm also reading Amy Poehler's book Yes Please.

Fiction and non-fiction, the only way I'm able to read more than one book at once.

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

Trying to get through Far from the Madding Crowd for book club. Failing.

Becky said...

Just added Saint Mazie and I have the Kent Haruf book in my library queue. Like everyone else in Madison.
Have you read Station Eleven yet? That's what I'm reading now. Loving it so far.

Theresa Mahoney said...

Saint Mazie sounds so good! I am adding it to my read list.

So, I am a little behind the times. I'm trying to clean out my closet to weed out some of the books I have stashed in there, so I decided to start reading the Twilight series Jason bought me 3 or 4 years ago. So far, I am finding the first book dreadfully boring, so I hope it picks up some. There HAS to be a reason why it's so popular, right?

Barb Ruess said...

Theresa - there doesn't have to be a reason those books are so popular. I read them with my girls. The first was okay - it went downhill from there.

I've been waffling on Saint Mazie but now I'm adding it to my to-read list. I'm on the hold list for Haruf's last book (but I don't live in Madison so Becky & I aren't competing). And I know a certain 14yo who can give you a powerpoint presentation on Shakespeare's authenticity that she put together as an independent project in 5th grade. :)

But on to what I read...

The Bone Clocks. Woah... I'm glad I hung on for this one because it ended up being a great read. At times a little bogged down in some other-worldly details but I really liked the epic span of the tale, the ultimate battle of good vs evil, and the very interesting perspective on souls and death. I was expecting it to feel very disconnected but I thought the chapters/stories worked well together. This one goes in the mind-boggling category for me. I don't know how Mitchell came up with this stuff.