I’m feeling really blah about writing reviews lately. I don’t know what it is, but for some reason I have just not been inspired to write anything this week. Unfortunately, I have a backlog of seven books that need to get reviewed and I can’t see myself writing out decent full-length reviews anytime in the near future. So I figured I’d just do a Sunday Salon post a la Eva and tell you about all of them at once.
The first book I want to talk about is Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. This novel has been blogged to death over the last couple of months, but honestly it is an excellent read. It revolves around Pearl and May, sisters in Shanghai in the 1930′s. They come from a rich family, and are extremely Westernized to the point where they are college-educated and expect to marry for love rather than in a typical arranged marriage. Their father has a gambling problem, however, and when he loses everything he marries the girls off to a pair of brothers and forces them to go with their new husbands to America. Shanghai Girls is a perfect example of the type of historical fiction I love: detailed, rich information about the time and place, but it mainly focuses on the characters. I fell in love with Pearl and May (even though I didn’t particularly like May at certain points; Pearl at other points) and I laughed and cried along with them throughout their lives. I loved reading about the strong bond they had as sisters, because honestly I can relate. I too am an older sister and my sister and I have a similar relationship to Pearl and May. The plot of this one went so many places I wasn’t expecting, and I loved that. Honestly, I can’t gush about this novel enough – I really, REALLY loved it. It’s by far my favorite Lisa See novel.
French Milk by Lucy Knisley is one I’ve wanted to read for awhile, pretty much ever since I started reading the graphic novel/graphic memoir category of books. It is a graphic memoir of the six weeks she spent in Paris with her mother when she was twenty-two years old. I visited Paris as a child (I was twelve) and let me tell you, French Milk made me yearn to go back! Knisley really made the city and her experiences there come alive for me. I don’t have a lot else to say about this book, but I enjoyed the experience of reading it very much. And I sort of want to be friends with Lucy in real life.
The next book I would like to discuss is Because I am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas. This book is H.E.A.V.Y. Really hard stuff to read about. It’s about this teenager named Anke whose father is abusive, both physically, emotionally, and sexually, only he doesn’t abuse Anke. He abuses her mother, brother, and sister, but he pretty much ignores Anke altogether. This leads to her having feelings of inadequacy – after all, if she’s not worth enough to abuse, she must be worth nothing at all. While it was not an easy read emotionally, it was a quick read because it’s written in verse which means very few sentences per page. So I flew through the book, but I have to tell you that it took an emotional toll on me. Once I finished it, I craved some kind of light read about puppies or rainbows or something happy. But honestly, Because I am Furniture is worth the pain it causes because it was truly a hopeful story by the end. Anke manages to find confidence in herself, she manages to protect her family, and (without spoiling the ending) things in the book end a lot better than they started. I definitely would recommend this one for those of you who can read heavier themes without a problem.
Ah, The Year of the Flood. I was really hoping I’d have a lot more to say about this book than I do, but like I said before, blogging burnout has hit. And honestly, I don’t know quite how to react to this novel. Obviously Margaret Atwood is something of a genius; this is the third of her books that I’ve experienced and they have so far all met the high standard I set for her in my mind with The Handmaid’s Tale. With this book, I knew some of the characters from Oryx & Crake would show up eventually, so unfortunately I was looking for them all throughout the novel, which sort of distracted me from the real stuff of the story (hint: the person you are looking for doesn’t show up until very close to the end of this book. Do not waste time waiting for him to be a part of the story). I definitely enjoyed it, though, and I think that the way the book ended there’s possibility for another book dealing with the same world, which I would absolutely love. I liked getting to know new characters and seeing how they experienced this world Atwood created. I may have liked Oryx & Crake a bit more than this one, but honestly I can’t say for sure. They were both fantastic books.
Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe by Doreen Baingana was a book I read because of my recent attempt to read outside of my comfort zone. It is composed of linked short stories about three sisters growing up in Uganda. While I thought the book was good enough, it didn’t really wow me. I liked the stories, but only one out of all of them stood out to me as something amazing. And also, and this is more my problem than the author’s, I didn’t figure out the stories were linked until the third or fourth one. Oops! But anyway, the story I really loved was the one called “A Thank You Note”, written by a young woman in the final stages of AIDS to her former lover. It made me so sad but it was so authentic, so well written, that I couldn’t help loving it. But besides that story, the rest were just okay to me. The cover, however – that cover is just gorgeous!
Her Last Death by Susanna Sonnenberg is a memoir about the author’s relationship with her mother. Her mother was addicted to drugs and alcohol, and gave Susanna cocaine at the age of twelve. Her mother was possibly also a sex addict, and talked about sex constantly, encouraging Susanna to lose her virginity at thirteen or fourteen. Her mother constantly lied to her, spent way more money than they had, and seduced men to get what she wanted. To put it simply: Susanna had a difficult childhood with a mother she could not trust. I definitely felt for her over the course of the book, but I have to say that I was kind of sick of it by about the midpoint. I understand why she had to write the book (her mother was dying and she was basically telling the world why she did not go to her bedside at the end of her life), but for me, there was just too much of it. While I feel for the author, it got annoying after awhile and I lost interest in her story towards the end.
The last book I want to mention is Between Mom and Jo by Julie Anne Peters. I’ve heard a lot of great things about this middle grade novel about a boy whose parents (lesbian women) are splitting up. And let me tell you, this book is excellent. Julie Anne Peters really knows how to grab you by the gut and not let go. The emotions Nick experienced, and showed to the reader, were just so raw, so honest, that I couldn’t help feeling heartbroken and devastated right along with him. And I think that this book should be required reading for every middle school kid – kids need to learn from a young age that no matter what your sexual orientation is, a family is a family is a family and when you have love, you have everything. No kid should have to experience the bullying and tormenting that Nick went through just because of his two moms. I know that (sadly) not all parents teach their children respect and acceptance, but books like Between Mom and Jo can fill in those gaps. Julie Anne Peters has shown me that she is beyond awesome and I will definitely be reading more of her books.
Let me tell you… it feels GREAT to be caught up on reviews finally. You probably won’t see much of me this week, I plan to take it as easy as possible blogging-wise and lay off the pressure I’ve been putting on myself to be a great blogger. I’m far from perfect and it’s time I cut myself some slack. I do have a blog tour scheduled for Thursday, so you’ll see that review (and unfortunately I’m not enjoying the book one bit… I have about 150 pages left and I really hope it gets better soon). Other than that tour date, I won’t be around much. So I hope everyone has a great week and perhaps next weekend I’ll come back, refreshed and ready to discuss even more books!