31 March 2010

The Unblogged Chronicles (March 2010)

This is another installment of "The Unblogged Chronicles"--mini reviews of all of the books I didn't blog about this month. Enjoy!

The Joy Luck Club (family drama/women's fiction): I have been meaning to read this book, which has become something of a modern day classic, for some time now. This Amy Tan novel tells the story of four immigrant Chinese women and their Americanized daughters through touching vignettes that range from tragic to comedic. As you all well know, I am a huge fan of works that feature multi POVs, and this novel alternates between first person narration from all of the daughters and three of the mothers. The result is a fascinating book with a plot that unravels like a puzzle as you follow each character's development and motivation. This novel isn't packed full of action, per se, but it is an enthralling story anyway. Tan writes an intriguing domestic drama that anyone with relatives can relate to. I look forward to reading more of her work.

Hedda Gabler (tragedy): This Henrik Ibsen drama was part of my assigned reading for World Literature II this semester and is considered one of the classics of modern drama...for good reason. I adored this play--it's a fun read. The protagonist, Hedda, is a fiery, complex female character with a dark side, and this tragedy, which traces her downfall in the course of two days, is superb. All of the characters are well-crafted (Ibsen took one year to plan out their personalities. As a details-obsessed neurotic, I appreciate an author who is obssesive with research.) The Victorian Scandinavian setting is vivid and realistically portrayed, as well. I really wanted to do a blog post on this one, but, alas, I was too busy studying it for a test to have time. Waaa! On the flip side, this play is a lot of fun to analyze in class. ^^

Peony in Love (romance): All right, I must be honest: I have mixed feelings about romances. On one hand, I adore certain classic romances, gothic romances, and historical romances. On the other hand, I am not a big fan of the Happily Ever After endings that are so common in this genre. Meh, I just think they are a bit too pat. Give me a choice between a Happily Ever After and a murder-filled finale where everyone dies, and I'll choose the bloodbath every time. I found this Lisa See novel--a supernatural romance set in 16th century China and loosely based on fact--interesting, though a few parts did drive me a little crazy. (Not crazy enough to make me dislike the book, but crazy enough to make me occasionally roll my eyes.) This novel is the tale of Peony, who pines away from lovesickness, under the influence of the deeply romantic and frequently banned The Peony Pavilion opera, and, after becoming a ghost, influences her husband's subsequent brides to do likewise. The first part, before Peony's death, is good, but it's all very familiar: Girl falls in love with dreamy boy. Girl is trapped in impending arranged marriage and will never see boy again. Girl becomes upset and starts acting crazy. (On a side note: If you decide to go on secret rendezvous with an attractive stranger, please, for the love of God, at some point tell each other your names. It will save everyone a lot of heartbreak, okay? Thank you. This has been a public service announcement by Zella Kate, courtesy of the Lonely Hearts' Club.) I thought that the book improved dramatically after Peony died and became a ghost, primarily because it was unique and provides a fascinating look at traditional Chinese beliefs about the afterlife. The historical detail is well done. Overall, I liked the book, though I thought the beginning was a bit clich├ęd.

Secrets of Eden (literary thriller): Alice Hayward was baptized on Sunday morning. She was murdered by her abusive husband in a murder-suicide on Sunday night. But was it really a murder-suicide? Evidence at the crime suggests it may have been a double homicide and the pastor that baptized Alice, Stephen Drew, is the prime suspect. This brand new Chris Bohjalian novel is told through the POVs of the accused Drew, the DA who believes he's harboring secrets, an author who interjects herself into the investigation because her parents also died in a murder-suicide, and Alice's now orphaned daughter. The only reason I didn't review this is it would have come too soon after Shutter Island. This is an extremely well-written novel. Bohjalian does a marvelous job of maintaining suspense without resorting to overdone plot tricks. I was particularly impressed with how individual each of the character's narration was, especially the sardonic DA, Catherine, and Alice's teenage daughter, Katie. I highly recommend this book.

Gone, Baby, Gone (hardboiled mystery): I am now a confirmed Lehane nut. Aly simultaneously recommended it to me as I was reading it. (You know what they say about great minds...) This is a gritty, heartrending tale of a kidnapping in the mean streets of Dorchester, Massachusetts and the resulting investigation by private detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. As with Shutter Island, I loved the twisty plot and the great characters. I also love how Lehane doesn't cop out and go for the blatantly unrealistic happy ending. As with my other Lehane review, I must warn you that this also has loads of profanity and some very disturbing scenes. (If it makes a hardened PI like Patrick cry, it will make you bawl, too. Or at least it made me cry.) My only problem, and it isn't the author's fault, is it is a little hard to follow in parts because this is the fourth book in a series, but Lehane keeps it up to date without bogging you down in details. (I am now going insane trying to find the other books in the series.)

Prayers for Rain (hardboiled mystery): This is the fifth Lehane novel about Gennaro and Kenzie. (I am reduced to reading whichever one I can get my hands on. Pity me! Pity me!) I enjoyed this one--which details the detectives investigation of a sadistic stalker who pushes his victims to commit suicide--but I liked Gone, Baby, Gone just a little better. Reason is in this one the basic plot gets figured out before the denouement and it becomes more an issue of stopping the stalker, rather than a mystery right down to the end. It’s still a great atmospheric read with Lehane’s trademark sardonic wit. And the ending, where Kenzie and Gennaro turn the tables on the stalker, is delicious revenge. *insert standard disclaimer about profanity and adult situations*

Columbine (non-fiction/true crime): The Columbine High School shooting was the first major news story that I remember when it happened. (The fact that I was living in Colorado at the time probably didn't help.) As with true crime in general, it is an event that both horrified and fascinated me. Eleven years after the fact, journalist Dave Cullen re-examines the massacre in this meticulously researched, well-written book that explodes many of the myths about the tragedy. I saw a review that compared it to one of my favorite books--Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. That's high praise from anyone, but this book is reminsicent of Capote's masterpiece. Even the killers bear a disturbing resemblance to the murderers in Capote's book. (That's because murder-spree duos usually have similar psychological mindsets, but that's a story for another day.) Cullen is widely regarded as a foremost authority on the Columbine school shooting. This book proves it.

Greedy Apostrophe (children’s book): Those of you who know me well know that I love punctuation, even to the point of committing vandalism in the name of preserving proper punctuation. *cough* You also know that I adore that most special yet maligned punctuation mark: the apostrophe. *gently picks apostrophe up and holds her high for the world to behold* Is she not dainty and pretty? Is she not flawless? Is she not the epitome of what a punctuation mark should be? (Just agree with me. Please.) Well, as much as I adore the apostrophe, in the wrong hands, this gentle soul can wreak havoc. Greedy Apostrophe: A Cautionary Tale, by Jan Carr, warns of the confusion and horror that can result from abuse of the apostrophe. This is a children's book, so I wouldn't expect you guys to read it, but for those of you with younger relatives, please read this book to them! Alert them to the dangers inherent in using apostrophes to make something plural! Greedy Apostrophe must be stopped! We need your help! :P

P.S. As some of you have already discovered, I am now on Twitter. Stop by and read the ramblings of my diseased mind when you get a chance...if you dare. :)


Next Week: Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis. This is one of my absolute favorite stories from one of my favorite writers. We're reading it for World Lit this semester. I squealed with joy when I saw it on the syllabus.


    My Dad recommended "Gone baby Gone" and we even rented the movie. Very good book.
    I have to agree with the little problem of figuring things out in the story because we hadn't read the other books. That was strange. ANYWAY, GREAT POST!!


  2. You've been busy reading! Wow!

  3. Aly, I can't wait to see the movie now! Have you read any of the others? I have placed holds on them all. Muahahaha. *cough* :D

    Jean, Hehe Yeah, I had spring break this month and spent most of it with my nose in a book. :D

    Thanks for commenting! :)

  4. If you're a Facebook member this group just might appeal to you:


    Greedy Apostrophe sounds pretty interesting.

  5. LOL Jourdie, thanks so much for the link. I am now a proud member. ^^ Punctuation-themed anything makes me happy. :)

    Greedy Apostrophe is great, just because it is so silly. :P