Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Netherland

The way I see it, there can be three problems that arise in a novel and make it fall short.  First, the plot can just be something that is not interesting to you so no matter how well it is written and how artistic and creative is, you are just simply disinterested.  Second, the grammar and writing style can be so frustrating to the reader that it makes the reader hate the characters and/or the author.  And third, the character development just isn’t there.  For Netherland, the last issue was the one that got to me.  When you sit down to read a book about a person and their experience for almost 300 pages, you better like the person.  Joseph O’Neill (the author) never gave me any reason to really care about Hans van den Broek or his problems.  The idea behind the novel was a decent one.  It follows the story of a dutch banker and how he is enmeshed in the multicultural city of New York, mainly through meeting people on the cricket field.  However, I felt it never really got all the way into the story, and I never actually cared what happened to the protagonist or his friends.

Handle With Care

handle with careI finished “Handle With Care” last weekend.  I have to say it was rather disappointing.  I also should say that I was prepared for disappointment.  A couple years ago, I read Picoult’s “My Sister’s Keeper” and really enjoyed it.  It was a story of a family with one child who had leukemia and another conceived to be a genetic match and live life as a perpetual donor to her older sister.  I enjoyed the story – and the writing style as each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective.

Since then, I have read a few of her books and they all seem to follow the same formula: a tragedy, multiple perspectives, one tragic character, one character denied much needed attention, and some surprising twist at the end.  Though, now the surprises are getting quite predictable.

“Handle With Care” followed the same pattern.  Willow is born with osteogenesis imperfection – brittle bone disease.  Amelia is the much neglected older sister.  Then comes the wrongful birth lawsuit as Willow’s parents sue their obstetrician for not informing them early enough of this condition….

I’m sure you can imagine how this all pans out.  It is an easy enough read.  And not awful.  Just disappointing when comparing it to Picoult’s other books.

Pope Joan

pope joan“Pope Joan” by Donna Woolfolk Cross tells the story of a woman in the 850s who could possibly be the only woman pope the Catholic Church has seen.  The possibility of a woman in such a position is seemingly unlikely however still a possibility based upon all of the tales told through the times.

Joan is born to a religious father and Saxon mother.  She is the yougnest child with two older brothers who are expected to learn and follow in their father’s footsteps.  Her oldest brother encouraged her love of learning by teaching her to read.  After he died, she continued to read and write and is tutored until a bishop from another town requests her presence in their school.  Her father immediately dismisses the idea and sends her brother instead.  So begins the journey Joan takes until she ultimately becomes the Pope.

This story follows her from the day of her birth through her childhood and the events that lead to Joan becoming John Anglicus and living the life of a man of religion.  She loves learning and questions the injustices of the world.  Her story is interesting and an incredible example of the possibilities for someone willing to fight for what they believe in.

My Name Is Asher Lev

asher“My Name is Asher Lev” by Chaim Potok was surprisingly good.  Asher Lev is a Hasidic Jew who against his father’s wishes loves to draw and paint.  Because of the religious tradition within their household, he would much prefer he took after him and studied the religion and behaved properly by leaving his art behind.  Asher is naturally talented and his gift grows stronger as he comes of age.  The story begins when he is a young child and spans to young adulthood.  The consequences his artwork has on his family and religion deeply affect the story and the reader as we journey alongside Asher Lev.

The Twilight Saga

twilight sagaThe Twilight Saga….I don’t know where to begin….Overall, I enjoyed the series (so far).  Individually, I was definitely not convinced after reading “Twilight.”  After I saw the movie (which was awful), I remembered liking the book so much more than I actually did.

Having said that, after more than a year, I finally gave the rest of the series a chance.

“Twilight” was typically slow moving and focused entirely on Bella and Edward’s high school romance for 500 pages followed by 50 pages of action.  Edward Cullen, never the typical high school boy – likely because he has lived for decades already and obviously because he is a vampire, and his family live in the forest of Forks, Washington to escape notice of humans.  Bella moves to Forks to live with her father from Arizona midway through her junior year of high school and that is where it all begins.  “Twilight” is mostly a sappy teenage love story.

twilightmovieThen, as if vampires weren’t enough, as we move on to “New Moon” and “Eclipse” a new element is introduced… werewolves and much more fighting and overall just more intriguing action.  These two books are my favorite right now.  Much more drama and much less sap.

Though I can’t say that this series isn’t entirely too predictable despite the neverending twists and turns, it does capture me.  (I hate to admit it after I stood by hating the first book so much)  I am currently reading the final book, “Breaking Dawn,” and will be sure to update this post when I am finished….Should be in the next couple days at the rate I am reading through these….

Special Topics in Calamity Physics

special-topics-in-calamity-physics-by-marisha-pesslThere are a lot of things I enjoyed about “Special Topics in Calamity Physics.”  The title, the chapter titles were all literary works, the first hundred pages of the book, and the last two hundred.  Pages 100-300 were on the slow side but it picked up as most murder mysteries do.  If I’m being 100% honest with myself, I bought this just because of the title and the cover.  My judgement of the cover seemed to work itself out in the end.

Pessl tells the story of Blue Van Meer’s senior year of high school….She has moved countless times since her mother died and her father continually moved to teach at a new college nearly every semester.  During her senior year, she befriends the “bluebloods” and a teacher, Hannah Schneider (the victim) and the tale continues to grow taller throughout each page.  Sometimes unbelievable but almost always entertaining, following Blue through her discoveries was definitely worth the read in the end.

Mother Night

mother_nightlargeAs you know, I love Kurt Vonnegut.  And I finished another of his books.  “Mother Night” is another war story which typically aren’t my favorite Vonnegut writing.  However, this was more along the lines of his creative stories set in the time of war.  The cleverness I love so much carried throughout the story of an American spy serving in WWII as a German radio voice who has been imprisoned as a war criminal and traitor.  As always Vonnegut takes a serious topic and fills it with wit and moments of laughing out loud….And as always, I will happily give him another chance and read more of his books.