Archive for April, 2010

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Teaser Thursday

April 15, 2010

That post title is entirely made up, but since I don’t have a great review planned, I thought that I’d share a fun passage from one of the books that I’m reading. Right now, I’m reading short stories from one of Joyce Carol Oates’s books called The Female of the Species. One of the things I love about Oates is how perfectly she captures the voices of the different characters in her work. Here’s a passage from the first story in the collection, “So Help Me God.” It’s a story about a woman who married young and is at home alone when she starts receiving curious phone calls. Here she reminisces about how she met her husband in high school.

Andrea had more household chores than I did and my bicycle was newer and faster than hers and I was the one who got restless and bored, so it was usually me on my bicycle, slow and dreamy and coasting when I could and not paying attention to cars and pickups that swung out to pass me. It was late August and boring-hot and I was wearing white shorts, a little green Gap t-shirt, flip-flops on my feet. I wasn’t so young as I looked. My ash-blond ponytail swept halfway down my back and my toenails were painted this bright sparkly green Daddy insisted I had to cover up, wear socks or actual shoes, at meal times.

I love this description, because it really does sound like something that would come straight out of the main character’s mouth. I haven’t finished the story yet (I’m about halfway through) but I know for sure that I won’t be reading it tonight, as I know too well how creepy Oates can be. I don’t want to be up wit nightmares all night!

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The Minotaur by Barbara Vine

April 7, 2010

A few weeks ago, during a cold and rainy weekend, I felt like I needed to get out of the house, go somewhere cozy, and start a good mystery. The only problem was that I didn’t have many modern mysteries sitting around the house unread. So I walked across the street to the local bookstore, and with Karen’s recommendations in mind, perused the mystery section  until I settled on Barbara Vine’s The Minotaur. I then walked over to a great cafe, ordered a warm sandwich and then basically didn’t put this book down until I finished it a day or so later.

Barbara Vine is one of the pen names of Ruth Rendell, who is considered one of the best modern mystery writers. Before The Minotaur, I hadn’t read anything by her (under either name), so I can’t compare how her Vine books compare with her others. I will say that although this book was published by “Vintage Crime,” I haven’t the slightest idea why this book would really be considered a mystery or even a crime novel. Yes, someone dies. No, that doesn’t make it a mystery. Why this book with a death in it is considered anything other than literary fiction is really the only mystery to me. There are so many “literary” books published every year that are not nearly as well written, have worse character development, and contain fewer psychological insights than this novel does. I would say that The Minotaur is a suspenseful piece of literature that happens to have a murder in it.

With that complaint out of the way, I’m sure that by now most of you can tell that I loved this book. The story centers around a Swedish nurse, Kerstin, who takes a job as a nurse at an old English country house in the 1960s. As time goes by, Kerstin begins to know the family–a mother, three daughters, and a son–and their eccentric ways and relationships. She also learns about the funny little town they live in and the people who live there. The interesting thing about this book is that there isn’t a single bit of coincidence or sleuthing–instead, it’s all about the psychology of what makes people act the way they do. The events of the plot occur not because someone has a crazy motive or because something unexpected happened, they occur because of the natural tensions that arise out of complex and convoluted personal relationships. For that reason, The Minotaur was unlike any other “mystery” book I’ve read, and now I understand why Vine/Rendell is considered a master of suspense. I can’t wait to pick up another one of her books!

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Returning

April 5, 2010

I know it’s been nearly a month since  my last post, but I just couldn’t help but start writing about books again. I don’t know why I was gone for so long–I had plenty of reading to talk about! I was just in a bit of a writing rut, actually. I couldn’t think of what to say about the books I had finished reading. Let’s just dive right in now, though. Instead of feeling overwhelmed about all the books that I finished, I’d rather just chat about what I’m reading right now. I’m so excited about each and every one of these books!

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín: This book is everything I expected it to be and more. I am so thoroughly involved in the main character’s life that I find myself doing whacky things like missing train stops. In fact, sometimes I don’t pick up this book if I know that I only have a little while to read because I have such a difficult time putting it down. I like the writing style–it’s pretty straightforward and simple, but the tone and emotions described managed to grab you. I find myself so immersed in the story that I sort of forget the writing and the author. Definitely a winner.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas: I’m so glad that I convinced myself to sign up to read this for the classics circuit! After reading the first fifth or so during a long plane flight this summer, I unintentionally let this book sit around without finishing it. I’m glad that I picked it up again! More to say about this next month when I write about it for the circuit.

Jane’s Fame by Claire Harman: I received this as a gift this weekend (yay!) and of course started reading it as soon as I had a chance. Wow, this really fits in with my year of Austen perfectly. It has a tiny bit of biography at the beginning, which is perfect. I still haven’t decided if I want to do a full blown biography read or not; this amount of info I think will be just fine for my purposes. So far, it seems seriously well researched with loads of footnotes, yet very conversational in tone.

Ghost Hunters by Deborah Blum: This is as excellent as I thought it would be, even if it does make me think more than any of the other three books that I’m reading right now. I think this may be more of a long term read; perhaps I’ll try to read one chapter a week. I love Blum’s take on science, and how she’s not afraid to fault scientists when necessary without faulting science itself.

Sorry for the image-less post and for the rambling discussion without any in-depth serious reviews. I’m starting blogging slowly, I guess!