Nineteen Stories

3 Mar

After days of trying to convince myself otherwise, I think I finally have to admit that I am never going to write eighteen (now nineteen) actual, full out book reviews.  And so… here are my usual little blurbs:

  1. Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl — A huge fuss was made over this book when it became a movie, and a ton of friends/family read and liked it, so I thought it might be time to read it.  Overall, I think it was really interesting, very well written, and reasonably fair to historical fact while still providing a good fictional insight into the lives and minds of the Boleyn girls (who I am, by the way, apparently related to.)  I liked the book and now want to see the movie as well.  Verdict: B+
  2. Philippa Gregory’s The Boleyn Inheritance — In some ways, I liked this book a little bit more because it concentrated on less familiar characters in history.  I was a little bit bothered though by a portrayal of some of the characters that seemed to directly contradict the way those characters were shown in the first book.  So…  good, but with some flaws.  Verdict: B
  3. Philippa Gregory’s The Virgin’s Lover — This one focuses on the first years of the reign of Elizabeth I,  and looks at some things most stories about her don’t seem to mention.  As such, I liked the new angle, but I also think this is probably one of the least historically accurate books since so much of it is written based on thoughts, intrigues, and feelings.  That being said, it was a great read for the sake of entertainment.  Verdict: B+
  4. Philippa Gregory’s The Constant Princess — In terms of chronological order, I should have read this one first.  This was the story of the life of Katherine of Aragon.  The book began with her childhood and led through the failure of her marriage to Henry VIII.  I really liked Katherine’s character in the Gregory books so I was happy to have an entire book focused on her.  Again, the writing is well done and the history is reasonably solid.  Verdict: A
  5. Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild — Chris McCandless takes off into the Alaska woods and dies there.  A movie was made from this one.  I was interested in the story since it seems like such an odd thing to do.  I thought it was very compelling to look at all of the possibilities for McCandless’s actions, but I couldn’t help finishing the book feeling like the kid must have been a little off kilter.  The author tries really hard to make you understand his motivations, and how someone totally normal could make these choices, but I still think he was nuts.  Verdict: B
  6. Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner — This was a beautiful book.  On top of giving some real insight into Middle Eastern cultural and political affairs, this was a wonderful look at human failings, misunderstanding, childhood, and love.  I honestly think everyone should read this.  Verdict: A+
  7. Kim Edwards’ The Memory Keeper’s Daughter — there is a lot of beautiful imagery in this one, and a lot of reflection on the nature of parenting in general.  It also deals with loss and children with special needs.  I think the examination of choices involving our children was wonderful, powerful, and very sad.  The book is pretty dark overall, but ends with definite hope.  Verdict: B
  8. Jenny McCarthy’s Belly Laughs — An extremely irreverent (and hilarious) book about pregnancy.  I really liked this one for finally admitting to some of the truly unglamorous changes a pregnant woman goes through.  It is a quick read and meant to be more about relating to other pregnant women than being some sort of fact bible.  Lots of reviewers knocked this book for being inappropriate and/or negative.  Well yes, it does sometimes talk about things you wouldn’t want the world to know, but it is nice as a pregnant woman to know you aren’t the only one who went through something unpleasant.  As for the negativity, I just don’t see it.  I know people want to think that pregnant women spend their time smiling and glowing, but the truth is that no matter how much you enjoy it, pregnancy involves weight gain, swelling, gas, and lots of other weirdness.  I thought this was a great quick read.  Verdict: B
  9. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road — This is an ‘Oprah’s Book Club’ book.  It’s not the first one I’ve read either.  And, as has been the case with the other Oprah books I have attempted (including A New Earth), I found this one to be… weird.  It was very dark and sad, all about struggle with little to no reward at the end.  It is also written with almost no punctuation, which  means no commas, no quotes around dialogue, and no apostrophes unless absolutely necessary to distinguish the word from another.  I did read to the end, but I was less than impressed.  The whole thing just seemed pretentious to me.  Verdict: D+
  10. Mitch Albom’s For One More Day — I really liked this one.  It is short and senitmental, but it deals with the beautiful idea that you could have one more chance to talk to someone you have lost.  Of course, it made me think of Aodin… though in honesty I feel a lot of closure about his loss.  I don’t think I have anything new to say to him that I haven’t said, but all the same it would be beautiful to spend one more day with him.  Then again, maybe one more day would make it worse, harder…  In the book, the character spends one more day with his mother, and it is wonderful.  It gives him a chance to find closure and peace.  Verdict: A
  11. Sarah Bradford’s Lucrezia Borgia — This is a non-fiction account of the life and times of Lucrezia Borgia.  Living in Renaissance Italy, and the daughter of a pope, Lucrezia gets a bad rap from a lot of writers and historians as a whore and poisoner.  This book presents her in a far more favorable light, painting her as a woman of her times, used and using as was necessary for her own survival.  The writing is a little tedious at times, spending whole pages on outifts or jewelry, but the history is solid.  Verdict: C+
  12. Allan Metcalf’s The World in So Many Words — I am totally torn on this one.  Basically it looks at words in the English language that come from worldwide sources.  I liked that it didn’t just focus on German, Latin, or French, but also talked about words we’ve borrowed from Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.  On the other hand, I would have liked more detail.  Each country or language only got one word.  I also felt like some of the words were really reaching… some were extremely limited in use, and quite a few were names for animals or plants, and that just seemed less genuine to me.  Overall it was interesting, but not terribly informative.  Verdict: C+
  13. Laurien Gardner’s The Spanish Bride — This was another story about the life of Katherine of Aragon.  This one begins as she is on her way to England, thus leaving out her childhood, which I missed.  Although this one focused a bit more on minor characters and, as such, offered a new angle on the events at Henry’s court, I thought Philippa Gregory’s book was a better choice.  Verdict: B-
  14. Marlena de Blasi’s The Lady in the Palazzo — A non-fiction account of the owner’s adventure when buying a palazzo in Orvieto.  I thought the book was beautifully written, gave an excellent protrait of the intricacies and irritations of the life Italian, and of course just made me want to move to Italy again.  I will definitely be reading more of her books, which include stories of Venice, Tuscany, and Sicily.  Verdict: A+
  15. Jeanne Kalogridis’ I, Mona Lisa — I really liked this one.  It tells the story of Lisa di Antonio Gheradini, the woman often suspected of being the subject of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painting.  It gives you some insight into her life, maintains a reasonable facsimile of history, and even brings in Savonarola, my favorite Italian historical lunatic.  It was a great read, very well done, and worth the time.  Verdict: A+
  16. Kelley Armstrong’s Living with the Dead — Another in my beloved Women of the Otherworld series, this continues to follow Armstrong’s basic core of characters through various supernatural adventures.  Thanks to her large cast of witches, sorcerers, necromancers, and werewolves, the stories don’t tend to get old.  Easy read, great entertainment.  Verdict: A
  17. James Robertson’s The Testament of Gideon Mack — I was pretty into this one.  Basically, a preacher meets the devil… and finds out he isn’t half bad.  It was well written, serious but funny, and offered some interesting perspective on religion without being offensive or ridiculing.  I liked the writing style and truly enjoyed the book.  Verdict: A
  18. Kate Mosse’s Sepulchre — 592 pages of reasonably well written mystery, intrigue, and just a touch of the supernatural.   The story flickers back and forth between the 19th century and modern day, drawing parallels in the stories of the two main characters.  I thought the time shifting was quite well done, which is a tough thing to do, and the characters were whole and interesting as people.  The story itself was vaguely predictable, but the writing held its own and kept me interested.  There was a decent sprinking of French, which I managed to understand with my little bit of the language, but it could be irritating to someone with no familiarity with French.  Verdict: A-
  19. Mary Pearson’s The Adoration of Jenna Fox — I got this YA book from the library (yay for free books!) and read it cover to cover in one day.  Not far into it I began to suspect how it would end, but I enjoyed it all the same.  It has an interesting premise, and it certainly begs the question “What makes you human?”  In fact, it had me thinking about what makes you YOU as well, and about the choices the young girl is faced with when it comes to the identity of others.  It’s worth a read and takes so little time.  Verdict: A

Whew!  Glad that’s over.  Now I can move on to the second half of The Serpent’s Tale before it’s due back at the library.

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7 Responses to “Nineteen Stories”

  1. Caryn March 3, 2009 at 12:56 pm #

    My favorite of the Gregory books was also Constant Princess. I think I would have liked Katherine of Aragon… and I really like to think that how things played out between her and Arthur in this book is what really happened (though history suggests it’s probably not). Eh. Good for entertainment, like you said. 🙂

  2. Bex March 3, 2009 at 1:43 pm #

    I LOVED the Kite Runner as well. Now you have to read A Thousand Splendid Suns! 🙂

  3. a March 3, 2009 at 3:38 pm #

    I will have to read Constant Princess…I read The Other Boleyn Girl and thought it was interesting, but I felt like Gregory may have lost interest towards the end, because it was very anti-climactic.

    While I liked The Kite Runner, I could have outlined the next chapter in the middle of whichever chapter I was reading. It was a good story, but totally predictable. I did appreciate the insight into Afghani culture, but I think it was totally romanticized (based on my husband’s experiences there).

    Thanks for the book reviews – I’ve got a few more added to my “To Read” list!

  4. tash March 3, 2009 at 3:41 pm #

    Wow, clearly I need to get pregnant and go on bedrest in order to get through my book pile!

    Have you read Alison Weir? I really like her — While reading TOBGirl, I found myself constantly going back to reference the real deal (The Wives of Henry VIII) until I just decided to read it again when I was done. For me it was one of those cases of reality being so interesting/fascinating/horrifying that it really didn’t need fictionalized. Eliz I is good, too.

    The deBlasi book sounds like something I’d like.

  5. barbara March 3, 2009 at 3:41 pm #

    I like to think that should I be on bed rest I would do as you do and read many many books, however, I think I would be more likely to spend my days hooked up to the internet watching playful kittens on youtube.

  6. Caryn March 3, 2009 at 8:18 pm #

    Ooh, I agree with tash. I have “The Wives of Henry VIII” and loved it, too. It’s definitely not meant to be entertaining the way Gregory’s books are, but like tash said, reality was pretty interesting in that era, anyway.

  7. coffeegrljp March 8, 2009 at 9:18 pm #

    As a librarian I’m always interested in what others are reading. I loved The Adoration of Jenna Fox. I loved Italy – especially Florence, and was excited to see some picks on your list that sound as though they’ll take me back to Italy (even if only vicariously)!

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