Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Awakening by L.A. Banks

iconiconThe Awakening is L.A. Banks's next book after Minion, a vampire novel I finished last week.

In my post about Minion, I'd mentioned the author's wordiness and meandering scenes. I was hoping her writing would improve in future books, because I really like the story — but so far it doesn't seem like it will. The Awakening is pretty much the same way.

One of the things that is so frustrating about this is how little story is actually in each book. They always leave off at an important scene, with the rest to be continued in the next book. Problem is, if you got rid of all the unnecessary, repetitive, and meandering stuff, the entire story probably could have fit into one good-sized novel.

Of course, I like the story itself, so what it comes down to is whether I will continue reading the series in order to find out what happens — even if I can't stand the author's writing style. I'm not sure yet, but I have a couple of other things to read before they are due back to the library, so I have a little while to decide.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

iconiconI found out about Kira-Kira because Michael had to read it for the children's literature class he is currently taking. The book, which is by Cynthia Kadohata, won the Newberry Medal in 2005.

Kira-Kira is about a Japanese-American family in the 1950s and 1960s. The need for work forces them to move to Georgia, where they encounter both overt and subtle racism (i.e. segregation, shunning, etc.). Both parents work a lot in order to save enough to buy a house, putting up with really awful working conditions, such as the mother having to wear a pad because the factory doesn't allow them unscheduled bathroom breaks. Then the oldest daughter gets very sick, which is more than the already-maxxed out family can easily manage.

The book is interesting because it describes a lot of injustice, but from the younger daughter's point of view. She doesn't really understand the big picture of issues such as racism and labor abuses, though of course some readers will.

Reading Kira-Kira, you can tell why it won the Newberry Medal. In fact, it reminds me a lot of Bridge to Terabithia, which won the award in 1978. I don't want to say anymore because I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but if you read it I'm sure you'll pick up on the similarities, too.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Minion by L.A. Banks

iconiconI'm a pretty big fan of vampire fiction, particularly Anne Rice's vampire novels, so when I spotted L.A. Banks's Minion at the library, I thought I'd try it.

The novel is kind of on the other side from most vampire fiction: It's actually about the vampire hunters, rather than about the vampires.

It's a pretty good story. The main character is a vampire huntress just coming into her destiny: basically, to be the queen-bee vampire slayer. There's a hint of adolescent angst, all mixed up with the bigger issues of living to fight the supernatural.

There is a mother-daughter-like relationship between the main character and one of her gang of vampire hunters, and the dynamic between them is pretty strong. There is a great quote that reminds me of my own coming-of-age, and the dynamic between me and my mother:

"I've taught you almost everything I know to make you strong, independent, and courageous, and I tried to pass on all of that — then, when you were ready to fly, I was the one clipping your wings. Like I said, it's insane, but real. I'm sorry."

Isn't that a great line?

Unfortunately, the novel sometimes comes across as a little wordy, and some scenes meander a bit too much. I'm trying to cut the author some slack, since it is her debut novel — and since the story is really good. There are quite a few books that come after this one, and I'm sure I'll be reading them too, so I'll let you know if she improves any!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Slave No More by David W. Blight

iconiconSeveral nights ago, I finally finished the nonfiction book I was reading: A Slave No More, by David W. Blight.

Well, technically the entire book isn't by David Blight. The first half or so is, but the second half is comprised of two previously unpublished slave narratives, written by young male slaves who escaped during the Civil War.

I personally found the slave narratives the most interesting, but Blight's commentary was admittedly very well done. He had researched both men, and was able to pull in that research and other historical facts as he discussed the men's narratives.

I found out about this book back in December, when I heard a radio spot about it on NPR. The half-hour-long show includes interviews with three generations of descendants of one of the former slaves, John Washington. The women interviewed on the show didn't know that the narrative existed — or that their forebear had even been a slave. The radio show is definitely worth listening to, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in reading the book.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Light on Snow by Anita Shreve

iconiconI just finished reading Light on Snow Wednesday night. It had been a while since I'd read anything by Anita Shreve — the last one was Sea Glassicon, a lovely novel that I read several years ago, and which I highly recommend.

Light on Snow was also a beautiful story. Nicky Dillion and her father live in a remote cabin just outside of a small town, where they moved to get away from the unspeakable tragedy that occurred two years earlier, when Nicky was ten. They find a baby abandoned in the woods one night during a walk, and a few days later, a mysterious young woman shows up on their doorstep.

The remarkable coincidence — what if they had walked in another direction? or not gone for a walk at all? — is a powerful theme in this novel; just as it was nothing more than good timing that enabled them to save the baby's life, it was nothing more than bad timing that resulted in the tragedy that still colors their lives, two years later.

Light on Snow is about healing, but true to Anita Shreve's talents, it's not too obvious or too contrived. This is a great book, and definitely one worth reading.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Ivy Chronicles by Karen Quinn

iconiconNote: The image links to the cheapest edition at B&N, which is a bargain book, a paperback for only $2.99.  It says quantities are limited, so be sure to get yours while they are still available at this price!

I have a love-hate relationship with chick lit. Some of it I find really entertaining, while some is brainless at best.

Karen Quinn's The Ivy Chronicles happens to fall under the "really entertaining" category.

Chick lit seems to have a pretty reliable formula. They almost always involve career changes, wealth, a right-versus-wrong conflict, and a good-looking love interest. They usually end with the main character losing her job at the end of the book, but discovering that the loss is actually a good thing. And, of course, they always end with a hint of happily-ever-after for her and her love interest.

Interestingly, chick lit is usually written in first person, which is usually described as a no-no in the publishing industry.

The Ivy Chronicles is no exception. The main character, Ivy Ames, gets laid off from her job and discovers her husband is cheating on her, all in one day. Suddenly an unemployed single parent, she needs to find some way to support her two daughters. After downsizing her yuppy lifestyle, she starts her own consulting business — for getting yuppy parents' preschoolers into the best private schools.

Between the predicaments Ivy finds herself in thanks to her new life, to the antics of the rich people she works for, The Ivy Chronicles is quite amusing. Her dilemma also seems more realistic and less distasteful than certain other chick lit books I've read lately.

This book is not ground-breaking by any means, but it's good fun!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

iconiconI saw Anna Godbersen's The Luxe during one of me and my husband's visits to the bookstore. Michael and I enjoy hanging out at Barnes and Noble or Tattered Cover, where we can get coffee to drink while we read, browse through the newest releases, or (in my case) work.

I have been on a YA kick lately, so The Luxe seemed likely a likely choice to follow The White Darkness and Hurt Go Happy. I have to admit, though, it was a very different kind of book. Even though The White Darkness was very suspenseful, The Luxe was a different kind of suspense. Even though both books dealt with issues such as betrayal and sex, The Luxe struck me as being much more adult.

While I did not find The Luxe as moving as the others (and didn't expect to), I enjoyed it immensely. The mystery was very cleverly woven, and Godbersen's world of wealth, duplicity, and indulgence felt historically accurate and very believable.