Monday, June 21, 2010

Huge TBR Readathon Wrap-Up

The Huge TBR Readathon ended yesterday, and I'm pleased to say that I think I accomplished quite a bit! I read four books last week, which is twice the number I normally finish. Those pesky interruptions like a full-time job really get in the way sometimes. In any case, I finished the following books:

Marlena de Blasi- Amandine
Ilana Stanger-Ross- Sima's Undergarments for Women
Agatha Christie- The Moving Finger
Agatha Christie- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The first two are new books, which I need to review. The second two are for my Marple-Poirot-Holmes Challenge, which I had not yet started.

So, in sum, I made good progress. This was definitely a fun event, and I look forward to the next one!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Huge TBR Read-a-thon Challenge

My current TBR pile numbers around 2000 books (shhh, don't tell!) Yes, these books are all physically located in my house. I have books dripping out of all corners. My hearth has been taken over as a huge makeshift bookshelf, my spare room is pretty much book storage. Thus, this challenge is just what I need. I'm not going to get rid of any of my books once I read them, but read books do get packed away in an orderly fashion. Even more important, I want to read these books, that's why I acquired them in the first place. So I will be joining this fantastic challenge that runs this week. My goal is not set in stone, just to read as much as possible. I do have to work, but I'll do my best to read around the working hours. My strategy is to just pull anything that strikes my fancy at the time.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Review: The Four Seasons

This novel tells the story of the four Season sisters . When they gather for youngest sister Merry's funeral they are presented with the chance to confront a family secret that has festered for nearly thirty years. As they gather for the funeral each of the Season sisters is awash in her own problems. Investigating an old family secret gives them the opportunity to face their own demons, as well as to fulfill Merry's dying wish. If the plot sounds a bit hackneyed, that's because it is. The plot is entirely predictable. At no point was I surprised, and I saw the end coming from a mile away. The writing is also clunky. The prose is littered with excess detail, which serves no real purpose. Ultimately this book was far too predictable and sentimental to be enjoyable.

Mary Alice Monroe, The Four Seasons (Mira, 2009) ISBN:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Review: The Music Lesson

This novel tells the story of Patricia Dolan, a middle-aged art historian who finds herself in the midst of a mid-life crisis of epic proportions. The book opens with Dolan in the midst of a large-scale art heist, which removed a Vermeer from the clutches of none less than Buckingham Palace. Dolan is holed up in a cottage in a tiny, remote Irish village with the stolen painting. How an American art history professor came to find herself in this situation comprises the first three-quarters of the book. The rest brings the heist to its dramatic and suspense-filled conclusion. At the outset of the book Patricia Dolan finds herself stalled in her career, divorced, and grieving the death of her daughter. She finds solace in a long-lost, decades younger cousin who tumbles into her life and becomes the other half of Dolan's torrid love affair. It's the fling with this Irish cousin who launches Dolan into an Irish Liberation plot to steal a British-owned Vermeer. I found this book undeniably slow to get going. The details of Patricia's relationship with her cousin Mickey were not especially interesting. What was interesting was how an unassuming professor came to find herself in the midst of an international art heist. For as exciting as this book should have been, it simply was not. The characters were not especially well-developed, and were not always believable. The most interesting entity in this book is the painting, The Music Lesson. Perhaps this is intentional. The best-expressed emotion in this book is Patricia's love for the painting. The final, dramatic ending is the highlight of the book. Getting there, however, is slow going.

Katharine Weber, The Music Lesson (Crown, 1998) ISBN:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Review: Mrs. Somebody Somebody

This collection focuses on the lives of women living in the industrial city of Lowell, Massachusetts over the course of the twentieth century. These women cross the boundaries of age, race, and economics, but what they share is a feeling of marginalization and disempowerment. Each of them is trying, in one way or another, to make a place for themselves in the world, to prove that their existence matters. As it turns out, their place in the world is determined by their relationships to men. They aspire to be Mrs. Somebody Somebody, but those who fall outside this paradigm slip through the cracks. In style and substance this book reminded me of Donald Ray Pollock's Knockemstiff, disempowered people scattered throughout a small town. That said, the tone of Winn's work is softer, and less ragged than Pollock's. While the characters do find themselves in desperate situations, their lives still seem less ravaged. A glimmer of hope remains.

Tracy Winn, Mrs. Somebody Somebody (Random House, 2010) ISBN: 0812981456