Long weekend (and other recent) reading

Up here in the Great White North, it’s the Victoria Day Weekend, a chance to chill on a sofa with a book while your spouse works in the garden. YMMV.

My recent reads of note:

For TIFF Books on Film, I read a lovely collection of short stories by Yiyung Lee. My review (from Goodreads):

A Thousand Years of Good PrayersA Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m a bit conflicted about these stories. They are pretty dark: the plight of gays in China, of families with multiple children in China, daughters who don’t get along with their parents, who find out secrets, a young man swept into the Party because he looks like the late dictator. The characters in the collection felt relentlessly sad, pained, stuck in helpless situations.

That being said, these stories are finely crafted, intricate sketches of the men, women and young people caught up in difficult times. The tales are set in both China and the US of the immigrant experience.

I didn’t make it to the film associated with the final (title) story in this book as I was feeling under the weather, but by all reports it was excellent and I hope to pick it up online or from a local video store.

sand and fogThe other book I read for the TIFF series was House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III. It was a solid 5 stars, the story of a Persian immigrant to the US whose social status has fallen. He buys a house through a sherrif’s sale to try to make some money by flipping it. The story is told throught the points of view of the immigrant, the home owner who lost her house, and a police officer who tries to help her out. I’m very much looking forward to the screening of the film based on the novel on June 2nd.

I don’t read much YA literature, but I met a writer at my spouse’s Christmas party and downloaded her novel, Girl Reinvented. I loved it!

Girl ReinventedGirl Reinvented by Ann Moore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This YA novel was lots of fun, even for this well-past-YA reader. An overweight, introverted teen decides to reinvent herself, both on the outside and inside. I got some great fashion encouragement and enjoyed the denouement immensely. There’s lots to like here, and as an inexpensive download, well worth the price.

I look forward to more from Ms. Moore.

My bookclub read the best-seller Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn earlier this year. It’s soon to be a feature film and was relatively well received by the club. When I saw an earlier novel of hers available for download from the public library, I picked it up and was equally positive about it.

Sharp ObjectsSharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Written prior to Gone Girl, this equally intense thriller takes us into the heart of a family torn apart by tragedy. The protagonist, a reporter at a Chicago paper is sent to her hometown to cover a murder and becomes entangled in her family history. Difficult to put down, I had figured out the truth prior to the reveal, but it nonetheless kept me gasping.

I read another collection of short stories, Can’t and Won’t, by Lydia Davis. It arrived on the holds shelf at the library and I can’t remember where I read about it.

Can't and Won't: StoriesCan’t and Won’t: Stories by Lydia Davis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, wow.

First of all, I can’t believe that I’ve never read any of her work before.

This collection is what I imagine a writer’s diary to be like: the stories range from a line or two to 25 pages. Each start on a new page. Some are dreams. Some are (translated) excerpts from Flaubert. Letters. Snippets of conversation. Davis elevates the mundane to philosophical pondering, and brings down the self-important.

I want to read more.

And start a writer’s diary.

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

signatureCurrently, I’m listening to The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love (which I pretty much hated.) This novel was recommended to me by someone whose reading taste I very much respect (and who felt the same way about EPL.)  It’s a fabulous story about the life of a women in 19th century Pennsylvania who has a gift for botany, and about her family and the people who come in to her rather sheltered life. I rarely listen to audiobooks while I’m in bed, ready to sleep, but this one has me listening whenever I get a chance.

scratchingsI’ve also started reading a family history that I picked up at the OGS conference earlier this month called Scratchings: Across Cultures: A Memoir of Denial and Discovery by Stephen Heeney. This was a book that I picked up, a slim paperback priced at $29.95. I read a bit of the introduction:

The title of this book is derived from the lengths, still visible today, to which it was thought necessary to go in order to cover up our Iroquois ancestry. One of my objectives has been to confirm and explore this ancestry, and to contrast the fascination it aroused in me and my sister and cousins, with the shame it inspired in an earlier generation.

I put it down, and moved on to the next exhibitor, but in the next hour found that I couldn’t get it out of my mind. In some ways, genealogical research so often leads to discoveries of parts of our past that were covered up for one reason or another. I went back to the table and purchased the book, and am now 40 pages in to the 117 total. It could have used a sharper editor’s pencil, but it’s a fascinating story nonetheless.

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