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What I’ve Been Reading

February 24, 2011

Hi Friends!

Need a couple of book recommendations?  Here’s what I’ve been reading lately:

The Blasphemer had such potential. In fact, there were moments at the beginning where I thought this book was going to be brilliant. But then a funny thing happened…more like too many things happened. I think Nigel Farndale got carried away and decided to shove every possible idea he had doodled on sticky notes over the years into his first novel. I would have liked it better if he stuck to the parallels between the protagonist and his great-grandfather. Instead, Farndale goes off on some pretty bizarre tangents, most notably the Mahler-loving professor, who was just plain weird. This is one time where less would probably been more. And better. Fiction, 1 1/2 stars.

Kevin Roose, a sophomore at (liberal) Brown University decides he is going to go on a semester abroad. But Kevin doesn’t want to go to another country to study, he wants to understand his own country, or at least the part of the country that is completely unlike him. So he enrolls at Liberty University, a fundamental Christian university founded by none other than Jerry Falwell, himself. I had never even heard of Liberty University before I read Kevin’s book. And while I am Christian, I have to admit that my politics run closer to Kevin’s than any of the students at Liberty. Kevin’s honest account of his experiences at Liberty were eye-opening and completely fascinating. And mostly in a good way. Frankly, I was surprised, and I think it’s safe to say that Kevin was, too. One thing’s for sure: Kevin Roose is a great writer. This book was hard to put down. Non-fiction,  3 1/2 stars.

I was so excited when I found out that Alan Brennert had written another novel; I adored his first novel, Moloka‘i. But unlike with Moloka’i, Honolulu left me thinking, “eh.” Brennert loves Hawaii, and it is obvious that he knows a tremendous amount about the history of the islands. The problem with Honolulu is that Brennert seems torn on whether he wants to write a novel or a history book. I tell my writing students that the secret to good fiction is to “show,” not “tell.” Honolulu was filled with way too much “telling,” which took away from the beauty of the story. Fiction, 2 stars.

I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be popular for saying this, but I just don’t get the Jeannette Walls mystique. I read her Glass Castle, and thought it was okay, not excellent. It seems like everyone else I know loved Glass Castle, so I thought it might just be me. Then I saw Half Broke Horses at the bookstore and noticed that it was named one of “NY Times Top 10 Books.” All I can say is, I’m not sure why. This book borders on tedious. I will not pick up the next Walls book. 1 ½ stars.

Everyone loves Myra, the haunted, alluring main character in Amy Greene’s Bloodroot. She seems to enchant everyone around her. Bloodroot is narrated by those who love her best, and by the time I finally got to hear Myra’s own voice, she had captured a little bit of me, too. This is a beautifully written, character-driven novel. Loved it. Fiction, 4 stars.

I held my breath through this whole book. Literally. It felt that real. Leaving Atlanta is a tragic story, told through the eyes of three 11-year-olds. Brilliant. Best writing and best “voice” I’ve read in a good, long time. Pitch-perfect on every page. Leaving Atlanta was a recommendation from Lu, who always knows what I want to read. Fiction, 4 stars.

Have you read any of these books?  What did you think?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! 

Happy reading!



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