Friday, October 12, 2012

What I read in September 2012 (late!)

With all the excitement of my birth MONTH, I somehow forgot to post what I read in September! Whoops!

For full reviews of these books, click on the title to go to Marie's Book Garden 

Naoko, by Keigo Higashino

Naoko is the story of a factory worker, Heisuke, and his wife, Naoko, and young daughter, Monami. Naoko and Monami head up to Nagano on a ski bus to visit family, but tragically the bus drives off a cliff. Heisuke learns this information from the TV news. Soon after he reaches the hospital, Naoko dies. When Monami wakes up from a coma, she is no longer Heisuke's daughter..Naoko has inhabited Monami's body. Heisuke and Monami/Naoko prepare to live their lives in this father and daughter rather than husband and wife. 

I found this book to be sad. What I found most intriguing about the book was the idea of living your young adulthood all over again. This book was truly Japanese, and I imagine better understood by someone who lived in Japan or understands Japanese culture. 

How It All Began, by Penelope Lively

This must be one of the most English modern novels I've read in some time! When I started reading, I was struck by how many expressions most Americans wouldn't necessarily understand, but I have the advantage of knowing after cohabitating with a Brit for 25 years. The book is about "the butterfly effect," how one minor incident (in this case, the main character, Charlotte, getting mugged on a London street) can affect many people seemingly unconnected from the person directly affected.
One of the challenges with this book is that the characters are not particularly likable or relatable for me. Most of the characters seem to be just propelling through life without any effort to be happy or fulfilled. 
Ultimately, it's the kind of novel where no one is truly happy at the end, except perhaps Marion (hard to say). I enjoyed this novel more in the beginning than at the then I was ready to move on.

Ali in Wonderland (and Other Tall Tales), by Ali Wentworth

As I joke in my house, I'm not easily amused. My nine-year-old son rented "The Three Stooges" recently, and I knew that I would not find it funny in the least. Even when watch something I do find funny (like "Downton Abbey" or "Lost in Austen"), Mike is rolling on the floor laughing while I might just smile to myself. About the only people who regularly make me laugh are Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Ellen Degeneres, and Jane Lynch. When I've read humorous memoirs, I often start out thinking they are light and interesting, and then they grow tiresome. That's Ali in Wonderland for me. Midway through I started to get bored. I think the last straw was the chapter talking about how her mother believed that the cure for anything was to go to the Four Seasons. Wentworth was raised in privilege and lives in privilege now. I  ended up scanning the second half of the book to the end when she talked about meeting and marrying George Stephanopolous. The descriptions of her big fat Greek wedding and family were funny...but I found myself ready to move onto something else.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

Definitely the most memorable book of the month. Monsters. Children with peculiar powers, who are hiding from the monsters. Time travel. World War II and the Holocaust. Haunting black & white photographs (most of them actual vintage photos). A Peregrine falcon. Sixteen-year-old Jacob travels to Wales to find out what happened to his grandfather, who suddenly and mysteriously died. His grandpa, Abe, had shared strange and unimaginable stories with Jacob when he was a child, and he doubted his sanity. Jacob soon discovers that Abe was not lying, and he becomes irrevocably connected to the children at the home for peculiar children.

In the beginning, this novel reminded me of "Grimm," Portland's own haunting TV series. But what was unique about it was the photos. Ransom Riggs wanted to create a book with the photos alone, but he was convinced to write a novel around the photos instead.
 A film is in the making. I thought this story was highly readable, with an intriguing premise and captivating photos. I will read the sequel to find out what happens next!

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