Saturday, July 23, 2011

Escaping with a good book...

When I started summer vacation, I created a "to-do" list. On it, I listed 10 things I wanted to tackle during vacation. One of those was to "read 3 books". I figured that was a reasonable number to tackle. Suffice to say, I have read three and then some. Here is a quick peek at what I've found myself reading.

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly. I may have started this one before summer break. Not exactly sure. Anyways, the women at work were talking about the movie coming out, and I hadn't heard anything about the movie or the book. Sounded interesting. And it was...especially as I pictured the main character as the ever-so-yummy Matthew McConaughey. The book moves quickly, with a couple twists that were well thought out. I liked it: and am now eager to read other books by this same author. I kid you not, but I read this book in a day! I dropped the boys off at the movie theatre, and started reading. By the next day, I was finished (and yes, I did pause to retrieve the boys from the movie, fix dinner, sleep and other essential tasks). The book starts with the disappearance of the Governor's pregnant wife. 20 years later, the remains of the pregnant woman are found. Only problem is, there was no signs of the baby. She had been born and only the woman had died What happened to this woman and her child? Read the book and find out! That's why I couldn't put it down. I had to figure it out (and on a nook, it is much hard to jump ahead and sneak a peak at the ending). Ok, after I read it, I was a bit disappointed. The premise was great but the way it all wrapped up? Seemed a little too neat and pretty for even my tastes. One to something with a bit more "bite" to it...
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. I read this for my neighborhood book club meeting in June. It was fascinating! When I finished, I remarked that a book can be good even if it sad. The story, set in the late 1700s on a plantation in Virginia (with some of the story taking place in Williamsburg), follows the lives of two women living on the plantation. One was a black slave and the other was a white woman who arrived in America as an indentured servant. Through other books/films, I had a pretty good appreciation for the challenges that slaves faced during this time in history, but hadn't really given much thought to the indentured servant experience. The author did a great job of creating characters both primary and secondary that were credible and engaging. At times I wished for happier story line but let's face it, this time in history was not happy. Overall, I would encourage others to check out this book...however, have a happy book ready to dive into next.
That being said, I jumped right into this book by Lisa See. Shanghai Girls. It had been on my nook for months and I just never got around to reading it. Figured I was on a roll with historical fiction. Um, uh...probably not a great idea to go from one emotionally draining story to another...set in a different location and time in history but still a story filled with hardships and sadness. This story starts in Shanghai in the 1930s and follows the lives of two young girls sent to America for arranged marriages. Perhaps because of the culture I married into, I found it fascinating to learn more about the immigration process during this era. Also, I am not a "serious reader", so I need to have my history served up to me in a fictional fashion. This book delivered that and more. I will say I HATED the ending...until I discovered that the author has already written a sequel. Good, because she sort of left you hanging at the end of this book. Ok, I like my books to end with things all wrapped up. I'll let it slide knowing that this was more of a "cliff hanger" than an ending.

On a side note, Lisa See has also written Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. I read it a couple years ago, and am anxious for the movie to reach my local theatres. Right now it is on a "limited release" and not even playing at the artsy-movie house here in town.
Next up, I found myself setting the nook down and picking up a traditional book. I received this book last year for my birthday. From my aunt I believe. She said she it reminded her of the "coffee club" I so often speak of. Yes, for the past 4 years, a group of us have met at the local coffee shop every Wednesday morning. Ok, not every Wednesday, but the group meets on Wednesdays and when schedules permit, we all try to drop by for a quick chat and cup of coffee.

Anyways, this author takes a similar starting point and weaves a story of four very different women and some of the challenges they are facing. I admit, it was a little too much "chick lit" for my tastes at the beginning. Characters seemed predictable and almost cliche. But in the second half of the book, I found myself eager to discover how all their struggles worked out. In the end, it turned out to be a good book. Mind you, not what I would consider a 'great' book, but an easy summer read just the same. Talk about an easy summer read, this book by Alexander mcCall Smith is our July Book Club choice. It is less than 100 pages and well written. If you have ever read anything by this author, you will be familiar with his writing style. Some may say it is an acquired taste and at least for me, something I can handle only in small doses. In this book, the reader meets 3 very quirky Linguistic professors. As one reviewer noted, think of the German version of Frazier and Niles. 'Twas a fun read and I am sure our book club will have a good time talking about it later this month.
And finally, these last three titles. No, I didn't read them, we listened to them on our big vacation adventure. I'm not sure I've whined on my blog about the 'car' side of our vacation, but I really was a bit worried about driving that many miles. I used to love the adventures of a road trip, but then I became a mom and got old. Driving across town is an effort for me. If I can't get there in 15 minutes, I don't want to-or- need to go. So knowing that about myself, I decided I had better be prepared. I went to the library and scoped out what I hoped would be ok books to listen to in the car. The boys would be zoned out on their gadgets, but I had to make sure what I was listening to was "ok" in case they tuned in. And, I hadn't really planned in advance, so I had to go with what the library had in stock vs. requesting books in advance.

Dave Barry's Money Secrets was a collection of his essays. Some parts amusing but others where sort of 'eh...". It's been awhile since I've read his material, but I had a recollection that he was funnier in his early works. Again, could be age playing tricks on me...but overall this one was not a huge hit with any of us in the car. We finished it but not sure I'd recommend it for a car-trip choice.

Next up was the memoirs of Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson. My guys are huge fans of this show and I thought it would be interesting to listen to. And it was. But she sort of repeated herself in many different chapters and I didn't think the book really "flowed" as easily as one would hope. I did find it fascinating to learn how much time goes into creating just one episode of the Simpsons. Initially, each episode was hand-drawn. That has changed with the advances in technology, but forget how much work goes into such a program.

The last road trip choice was a huge hit. David Baldacci is a good author and his audio book is well recorded. Someone sets off a bomb in Lafayette Square (across the street from the White House) and Oliver Stone is assigned to sort through the many layers of who might have done it. The title is taken from the fact that jurisdiction in this park is split and trying to achieve cooperation with the various agencies (D.C. police, FBI, CIA and Homeland Security) is a hellish process. This book also captured the boys' attention and often they would chime in with questions "so, who do you think is the mole?". The down side? We got home before we finished the reading...but hey, I've got a CD player, we'll just finish up those last 45 minutes in the house...because NOPE, I was not going to drive any longer just to finish hearing it in the car.

So, that pretty much wraps up what I've read this summer. The list of what I'd like to read is longer than I started, but oh well...this summer alone, I've "traveled" to China and Europe (Shanghai Girls and Portuguese Verbs), I've felt the heat and the deception of Virginia (Kitchen House and Hell's Corner) and even spent some time in sunny California (with Matthew McConnaughy and Bart Simpson). A book really can take you away.....even if you never leave your house or car!


ganelle said...

Great review! I think I'll try out the cee cee and shang hai books. Thanks for the tip!

shirley said...

I'm heading out vacation and will need to check into the Shang Hai Girls book.
Have you read The Tiger Mom book? I highly recommend it....,.