Friday, May 16, 2003

Books Read, April 2003

White Oleander by Janet Fitch; fiction, Back Bay Books; a young girl whose mother is sent to prison for murder bounces around a variety of foster homes, always haunted by her prideful mother.

Well, this book just seemed to go on and on, didn't it? I can't remember if this is an Oprah-approved book or not, but it was unceremoniously handed to me at a Bookcrossing meeting - its previous owner didn't much care for it - so I read it on the plane to San Juan. I find it difficult to enjoy a book full of characters to whom I'm not endeared, and that was the case here.

Dark Debts by Karen Hall; horror, Ivy Books; a Jesuit priest and a writer from California explore their connections to a "cursed" family, all the while battling their own demons.

I used to read Karen Hall's blog before she retired it, and thus I was prompted to read her novel. As far as horror goes (not my favorite genre), I think it is a good effort, and Hall allows for enough curve balls in the action to keep the plot from being predictable. I read this one on the flight back from San Juan.

The Patriote Proposition by Thomas Thorpe; historical fiction, Port Town Publishing; a young wife in 19th century Canada becomes involved in a political struggle as she searches for her husband.

Reviewed for Blether at the request of the author. If you enjoy political thrillers and/or historical novels, you'll like this one.

The Color of Water by James McBride; non-fiction memoir, Riverhead Books ; a combination memoir/biography about a white, Jewish girl growing up in poverty who marries two black men and has twelve children, all of whom she puts through college by her own sheer will.

I had wanted to read this book for years. I caught an interview with McBride when the hardcover came out; I was working for the UGA library when it arrived, so I set is aside. I never got the opportunity to read it, however, and had to send it along. Years later, I find the paperback. This is a very good, very fascinating story; chapters alterate from McBride's point of view to his mother's, and I found it especially interesting since much of McBride's mother's childhood was spent in Suffolk, which isn't far from here.

Journey by Danielle Steel; fiction, Dell; a woman with a history of being in abusive relationship soon discovers her picture-perfect marriage isn't all that.

Oh, but this book was terrible! I picked it up at the monthly Portsmouth Friends of the Library sale - it was on the free table. I figured, what the hell. This being a more recent book, I can tell Steel is starting to slip. My review on Amazon reads in part: Steel glosses over some scenes which would have been more interesting had she written them as they happened - like Maddy's encounters with the abuse counselor. The constant POV switching and repetitive exposition was also a headache - Steel tends to explain things she had told us in earlier chapters as if she had never written about them before. This is a shame, since abuse against woman is sort of a cause of mine. It could have been handled much better.

Gabriel's Magic Ornament by Randall Bush; children's fiction, Pristine Publishing; two children anticipating a Christmas adventure get their wishes when a magic ornament takes them to the land of the Orna folk.

Reviewed at the request of the author; it will be up on later. This is a cute chapter book for middle readers, combining Biblical allegory and secular history of the holiday to form a nice adventure.

Shopgirl by Steve Martin; fiction, Hyperion; a bored retail clerk and a rich, older man have a brief fling.

I really wanted to like this book. I love Steve Martin. He could film a 90-minute movie where he just reads the back of a cereal box, and I'll still pay seven bucks to see it. This There are moments of enjoyable, dry Martin wit, but overall I just didn't find anything endearing about the book. I wasn't too crazy about the main characters, who came off as superficial an unsympathetic. Of course, that might have been the point Martin was trying to make. Maybe the movie will be better.

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