Tuesday, April 1, 2014

She Is Too Fond of Books: Some Books I've Read Lately

It's been far too long since I've reviewed any books, which is particularly shameful to an avowed bluestocking. But don't take that to mean I haven't been reading -- I most certainly have. So I thought I'd post a list of books I've read recently, along with recommendations (or not, as the case may be). Enjoy!

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. This is a dark story, but it's extremely well written. In some places the prose is almost lyrical, which is a satisfying contrast to some of the gritty subject matter. I had no intentions of reading this book; I couldn't make it past chapter one of another of hers: The Secret History. But a friend from bookclub told me she thought I'd love it. And she was right. Another thing that made this book special: I've had the privilege of viewing the painting The Goldfinch in person and before the book burst onto the scene. I didn't have to fight my way to get an up-close look. In face, loads of people breezed right by it! Caveat: language, situations, drug use. My rating: A+

Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline. I read this book in Maine over this past summer, which was particularly apropos, since it's set there. But that wasn't my first inclination to buy it. When the girls were small, we read a wonderful picture book by Eve Bunting (love her!) called Train to Somewhere about the orphan train program of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. So I was drawn to the subject matter. This is a fantastic book. Caveat: language, situations. My rating: A

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. I have to admit, it took me two tries to get into this book, but once I made the effort, I was hooked. An unusual story, well told. Caveat: language, situations. My rating: A

The Last Runaway, by Tracy Chevalier. This was pretty good, but nothing to compare, in my opinion, to Girl with a Pearl Earring or The Lady and the Unicorn. I enjoyed learning about the differences between English Quakers and American Quakers of that era, including their quilting styles. But the narrative had some glitches in it (again, my opinion) and weak spots, which I found irritating. Check out her two other books I mention if you haven't read them yet. They are better than this one. Caveat: language, situations. My rating: B-

 Bleak House, by Charles Dickens. Confession time! I hold a master's degree in English and I'd never read any Dickens (save for A Christmas Carol) until last year when the girls and I read Oliver Twist. Tiny Girl and I loved it; Miss Priss did not. Well, that experience whetted my appetite. I downloaded the free Kindle version of Bleak House and off I went. Friends, this novel is wonderful! If you think it's time for you to pick up a classic, make it this one. Caveat: situations. My rating: A+

Bellman and Black, by Diane Setterfield. If you've read the author's fabulous novel, The Thirteenth Tale, then you'll understand why I unflinchingly handed the cashier a lot of money to buy this one in hardback when I saw it in a small bookstore. Oh, to have that money back! When this story opens up, there are enough tantalizing hints that this is going to be yet another somewhat Gothic, atmospheric, deeply satisfying tale. But it never delivers on its promise. The narrative goes on and on (and on) about a businessman and his family, but nothing much actually happens to drive the story. Halfway through, I flipped to the end (yes, I do that!) to see if finishing the book would be worth my time. Alas, no. So I set it aside for something better. Now, I'm not a reader who thinks authors should write variations on a theme in all their books. In fact, I hate that. But this seemed to be written by another person entirely. Highly disappointing. My rating: In all fairness, I can't rate this book since I didn't finish it. But that should tell you all you need to know.

That's all for now. I have other books sitting beside me to review, and I'll get to them soon. Authors include Tatiana de Rosnay, Amanda Eyre Ward, and Kate Morton.

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  1. Oh, I love this post! "She is too fond of books..." love that.
    I haven't been by for a visiting lately and I see you've done some wonderful things with the 'place'. It looks lovely.

  2. Thanks for these reviews. Always interesting to hear about other people's reading! And your chandelier is lovely. Good for your husband not to mind it being "dinged up".

  3. Lovely blog Ellen. Thank you for visiting me. Now following :)

  4. Ellen, are you on Goodreads? I want to look you up and see your reviews! I really really liked The Book Thief and see your rating. I would give it A-...
    I am really interested in a couple books you put here: The Goldfinch- the reviews are pretty much hate it or love it, so I'm torn if I should even try it. Tracy Chevalier books- which of the better ones would you suggest for first reading? And finally, Bleak House. I read Tale of Two Cities and that is the only book of Dickens that I have ever finished. Started Oliver Twist and Christmas Carol...didn't finish.
    Anyway, I've left too long of a comment I see. I hope to see more posts like this one on your blog!


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