Thursday, August 20, 2015

Books Read in July

43. The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

I attended an event with Amy Tan a few years ago where she read from this book, and I've wanted to read it since. That was before it was published, and it took a few years, so by the time I found it again, it was a bargain hardcover at B&N.

The premise of the story is unbelievable and shocking to me, and many of the events are hard to stomach because of the sheer powerlesssness of the primary female character. That said, the characters are interesting and their stories weird and wild. The writing feels less like her other books to me, I'm not sure I can describe how. Less mystical, more practical, maybe. The subject matter of mother/daughter relationships seems familiar, but all the mothers and daughters are apart for most of the story, and their stories revolve around other people and situations, even if a large part of their psyches are tied to the alienation of their relationships.

Read it if you're interested in courtesan houses in China, Shanghai, or strange West meets East type characters/situations.

44. We'll Always Have Paris by Jennifer Coburn

I read this book because I thought it was going to be funny and about Paris. Instead, read The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz. This focuses less on mother/daughter travel foibles than on Jennifer Coburn's life growing up with her strange parents, particularly her stoner musician father. She's funny in some ways and not a bad narrator. There are some amusing anecdotes, but I really wanted a travel memoir, not just...a memoir.

45. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

The Lunar Chronicles just never made it high on my priority list, but after I snagged this copy from my neighborhood's Little Free Library, I devoured it. This is my favorite Cinderella retelling since Ella Enchanted , and the sci fi universe really stands on its own. A Cinderella cyborg story may sound whacko, but trust me, it's amazing. All the familiar tropes are here, but in clever reinvented ways. For example, in the very first scene, Prince Kai unknowingly caresses Cinder's robotic foot. Meyer sets up a futuristic universe with opposing societies on the Earth and the Moon. The advanced Lunar race has evolved the ability to project emotions to others, and the Earth-dwellers are rightfully scared of their more technologically proficient neighbors. Even worse, there's a mysterious plague killing Earth's citizens and no one can find a cure.

Cinder's largest merit is the intriguing worldbuilding. The characters are mostly as you would expect. The novel leads right into the next, Scarlet, which I'm hoping to acquire soon.

46. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

I've now caught up to all of Jhumpa Lahiri's oeuvre. Her writing is so unmistakably her. Third person, passive voice, detached--everything you're not supposed to do. But it works. You imagine the characters as if you were in their situation. Her writing is not the most gripping, but it allows you to slow down and think about the implications of our choices, how we affect others, and what is the 'right' thing to do. This is a quintessentially Lahiri tale about two Bengali brothers, one Bengali woman, and how their choices ripple through the generations.

No comments: