Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lord of the Flies--William Golding

Genre: Fiction/Literature
Year Published: 1954
Pages: 199
Rating: 5

I read this for the upteenth time with my high school English class, and as always, I marvel at the skill with which Golding weaves his metaphor of human society. This is one of the most brilliant pieces of fiction I have ever read. Golding's prose is gorgeous--his words are chosen wisely to paint a picture both vibrant and bleak. His use of symbolism is stunning--everything in this book is symbolic, and each time I read it I discover more connections. Everyone should read this book.

Challenge/s: Reread

Come Back: A Mother and Daughter's Journey Through Hell and Back--Claire and Mia Fontaine

Genre: Memoir
Year Published: 2007
Pages: 320
Rating: 3.5

As a former troubled teen who now teaches troubled teens, I felt a certain affinity with this book. Mia and her mother Claire went through some hard times when Mia was little, but it isn't until Mia turns fifteen that the problems really surface. When her daughter runs away and begins using heroin and other drugs, Claire steps in to rescue her. After placing her in a special boarding school that deals with such children, both Mia and Claire discover truths about their past and themselves that will hopefully save them both.

Sentimental, yes, but the writing is good (Claire is an writer by profession) and the story is captivating. After reading this book, I found myself closely examining my relationship with my son and confronting some truths about myself--and a little self-examination is never a bad thing.

Challenge/s: None
Book a Week # 23

The Devil in the White City--Erik Larson

Genre: Non-fiction
Year Published: 2003
Pages: 447
Rating: 4

I'm not usually a fan of non-fiction, but this book was fascinating. The author weaves two stories--the creation of the Chicago World's Fair, and the crimes of Henry Mudgett, serial killer--seamlessly to paint a vivid picture of Chicago at the turn of the century. I enjoyed visualizing the White City as it grew on the lake shore, especially as a native Chicagoan who knows these areas well. I felt a part of the lives of the unfortunate young women who fell victim to Mudgett's fatal charm, as well as the architects who struggled to create their vision on the lakefront. Larson's research on the subject is nothing short of amazing, but it is his storytelling that makes this such a fantastic read.

Challenge/s: None
Book a Week # 22

The Law of Similars--Chris Bohjalian

This was a very good book which delves into the world of homeopathic remedies and examines the ethical responsibilities of healers, as well as lawyers. A state's prosecuter becomes involved with a homeopathic healer, who relieves him both of his symptoms and his loneliness since his wife passed away, leaving him to raise their young daughter. However, their relationship is almost immediately threatened when one of her patients dies, and his wife holds her responsible. What ensues is not only a moral and ethical dilemna, but a heartbreaking love story as well.

I really loved the book Midwives by this author, and I am glad he is still exploring controversial subjects.
Genre: Fiction/Literature
Year Published: 2000
Pages: 336
Rating: 4
Challenge/s: None
Book a Week # 21

Chelsea Horror Hotel--DeeDee Ramone

Genre: Fiction/Literature
Year Published: 2001
Pages: 252
Rating: 3

My roommate recommended this book on the basis of its insanity alone, and insane it certainly is. While living in the haunted Chelsea hotel, the former Ramone relays a whirlwind life of drugs, hallucinations, and visits with dead punk rockers, including Sid Vicious and Johnny Thunders. Dee Dee is not exactly a literary genius, but he sure can tell a crazy story--one that fluctuates somewhere between the train wreck you can't stop staring at and an actual compelling read. If you have a weak stomach I wouldn't recommend this book--lots of disgusting scenes involving blood, bugs, vomit, and the like--and be warned that its extremely violent. But its quite funny at times in its psychotic, "WTF?" kind of way, and it goes down quickly.

Challenge/s: None
Book a Week # 20

Memoirs of a Geisha--Arthur Golden

Genre: Fiction/Literature
Year Published: 1997
Pages: 448
Rating: 5

As I read this book, it was hard for me to believe that it was a work of fiction. The narrator was so real, and her thoughts so vivid, that I couldn't imagine someone--especially an American male--making it up. I was captivated almost instantly by Chiyo's story of hardship, hope, and love. And the immersion into the geisha culture was eye-opening for me--I knew very little of it before I read this book. This is the best book I've read this year, narrowly surpassing Water for Elephants.

I read this book because I saw a small portion of the movie--the beginning, when Chiyo and her sister were being sold--and it piqued my interest. I went out and bough the book that evening. I have yet to watch the entire movie.

Challenge/s: None
Book a Week # 19

Nim's Island--Wendy Orr

Genre: Children's fiction/literature
Year Published: 1999
Pages: 125
Rating: 4

I took my son to see this movie and fell completely in love--so completely that I bought the book the next day. Nim and her father live alone on a deserted tropical island--alone, that is, insofar as human contact goes. They have plenty of companions of non-human type. Nim is a bright, vibrant, courageous and resourceful girl who loves reading adventure novels, but when her father is lost at sea she finds herself alone and frightened. By a twist of fate, her favorite adventure hero/writer emails her father! Nim turns to Alex Rover for guidance and help--little realizing that Alex is not only a woman, but a neurotic germaphobe who hasn't left her house in years. I will say no more, except that their unlikely friendship teaches them both something about themselves and others.

I thought this was a great piece of children's literature. It is fantastical and unrealistic, but the truths it uncovers are not. And it provides us with two strong female characters, as well as a lesson that our strength and courage can manifest in a variety of ways.

Challenge/s: None
Book a Week # 18

The Thrall's Tale--Judith Lindbergh

Genre: Historical fiction
Year Published: 2006
Pages: 464
Rating: 3/5

This book wasn't bad, considering it was a random selection from a bargain bin in a bookstore. By the end I was ready for it to finish, but the story was interesting enough. It focuses on three women--Thorbjorg, a seeress devoted to the Nordic gods; Katla, a "thrall" or slave from Ireland whose mother taught her Christianity before she died; and Bibrau, an evil, demon-like child spawned of Katla's rape by her owner's brutish son. The three reside in the first Norse settlement in Greenland, sometime around 1000 AD.

I like historical fiction, especially that which focuses upon pre-Christian and early Christian religion. This book was interesting in that aspect. I was also interested in how Erik the Red led his people to Greenland. However, the characters were hard to like. Even Katla, who was delightful in the beginning, becomes (understandably) morose and unlikeable after enduring a horrific rape and beating which scars her physically and mentally. The child is almost imp-like, and has little mischevious fairy friends that provide entertainment, but her viciousness becomes hard to stomach by the end of the book.

While it wasn't a horrible read, I wouldn't read it again.

Challenge/s: None
Book a Week # 17