This has been a challenging week for all of us and we can’t say we aren’t happy to see it end. No matter that the weather is glorious; it would appear that the full moon weirdness just keeps coming at us. And please, don’t even get us started on our commutes. You will unleash a load of misery that will make Pandora’s Box look like a Whitman Sampler. Let us all light a candle and offer up good thoughts to the Universe that this mess will be over soon. This week we have another world, some vampires, Lady Day, a 10 year love affair, dolls (you know the kind!), a murder, the dreaded Christmas Letter, and some sophistication.
Let us begin!
Miss Elisabeth of the CL is working on some Young Adult book goodness. “This week I read 2 fantastic YA books, both of which got wonderful reviews. The first, A Corner of White, has a truly unfortunate cover disguising a remarkable story. Madeline is a girl on the run from a mysterious past living with her mother in a tiny flat in Cambridge. One day, quite by accident, she notices a piece of paper sticking out from under a parking meter, and starts up a communication with a boy who lives in another world; a world with everything modern and magical, a world plagued by attacks from different colors. Actually, Colours, since the characters are British-ish. The book is really well written, and I especially loved that each character and world felt fully fleshed out and real. I also read (well, devoured is more accurate) Holly Black's new vampire book, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, which has a delightful cover. Plus, IT IS AMAZING. The very best vampire book I have read in many, many years. Holly Black's vampires are not your friends. They enjoy ripping people's throats up and sucking them dry. They would laugh in the face of vegetarian Edward Cullen before devouring him for dinner (vampires enjoy other vampire blood as a power-filled delicacy). In this story, the existence of vampires has shocked and fascinated America in the not-too-distant future. Confined to walled cities called Coldtowns, disaffected people across the country stream to these prisons to live amongst (and feed) the vampires. Our main character Tana has avoided vampires since a very terrible experience with her mother when she was small. Tana does not want to go to a Coldtown, but she has no choice. Will she make it out alive? Or will she become Undead? This book was nail-bitingly suspenseful, with a phenomenally realized world that you believe in entirely. I can't recommend it highly enough.”
Miss Kiera of the CL just finished Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool. “You might remember that her debut middle grade novel, Moon Over Manifest, was a surprising Newbery medal winner in 2011. I wasn't a huge fan of Moon Over Manifest. I appreciated the strong writing and the deft plotting, but I had trouble figuring out what child reader would read (and enjoy) that book. I suppose I'm still making up my mind about Navigating Early. I liked the story about 13-year-old Jack from Kansas. It's 1945 and after the sudden death of his mother, Jack has been relocated to a boarding school in Maine to be geographically close to his emotionally distant Navy captain father. I liked that his only friend is the school "weirdo" named Early- a boy who lives in the basement, rarely comes to class, is obsessed with the number Pi and listens to Billie Holiday (but only when it's raining.) The two boys sent off on an improbable and dangerous journey a la Odysseus where they encounter a gun-wielding maniac, a delusional grandma and a mythic bear- among other dangers. There is a story-within-a-story that lends the book a subtle fantasy feel, but it doesn't always connect with the main narrative. Jack's voice comes across as a wizened and thoughtful adult looking back at his childhood adventure rather than that of an actual teenager. That said, it is a beautifully told and superbly-crafted tale. Recommended for children in grades 4 to 6 (or adults who enjoy John Irving.)”
John has just finished MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood. “This is the very satisfying conclusion to my ten year love affair with this trilogy that includes Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood. Atwood is among a small handful of my favorite writers and I tend to simply revel in her writing and I have been waiting a long time to find out how the story of the Crakers and the MaddAddamites ends. MaddAddam starts where Year of the Flood leaves off. This is a good, solid conclusion to a wonderful trilogy written by a phenomenal writer.”
Stephanie is indulging one of her obsessions. “So far in my reading year, Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedham wins the award for hardest to sum up neatly. What I expected was another breezy story about the crazy things rich people do with all their money , especially as I already knew Huguette’s main obsession was dolls and dollhouses, how could I resist? What I got was a complex story about a complex woman whose wealth protected her from the real world for her entire 104-year life, both for better and for worse. And what’s more, because she lived so long, the story of her life is both a fascinating slice of American history and an interesting commentary on modern America. There’s a lot to unpack in this one. It’d be a fabulous book group pick.”
Sweet Ann is working on a not so sweet sounding read: The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison. “This is the story of Jodi and Todd who have been living in a common law marriage for over twenty years. Psychologist Jodi and Todd accept each other as they are; she accepts his cheating and he accepts her silences. The book begins with a murdered Todd and Jodi being at fault. Told in alternating voices, as a reader you come to know more and more about them. Jodi's chapters center on how she is feeling about herself, Todd and her patients. Todd's chapters express his excuses and justifications for his behavior. This is an interesting read as you discover the main characters personalities and how they developed that way from childhood and other life influences.”
Jeanne is, well, Jeanne. Two things at once. At the speed of light. Discuss. “In the car I am listening to The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. So far, I am not sure if it is - interesting that is. I do find the range of voices that the narrator, Jen Tullock, uses fairly compelling. I like the way she evokes conversations between people beyond just reading the book. I always appreciate a good "coming of age story" and while this one isn't exactly, Wolitzer gathers six creative teenagers at a summer camp for the arts who bond as life-long friends. She follows them later in their lives, maintaining their vow to stay in touch, sometimes through the dreaded Christmas/holiday letters. We'll see if they are still interesting in their forties and fifties. I have been thrashing about trying to find a good book to read, starting and abandoning several, and I finally came up with reading the recent issues of The New Yorker that have piled up on my kitchen counter. So I am getting my literary fix with this magazine's sophisticated essays, reviews and cartoons.”