Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My Latest Reads

I read several reviews of My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares and was very interested in reading it based on its premise.  So when I was at the bookstore and holding it in my hands, reading the cover blurb, I just had to have it.  $28 and I still had to have it.

Yes, I am a believer in reincarnation.  And, as the blurb begins: "A magical story that changes the way we understand the world and proves the power and endurance of a love that is meant to be."  And so the story begins.

Here's how the book begins:
" I have lived more than a thousand years.  I have died countless times.  I forget precisely how many times.  My memory is an extraordinary thing, but it is not perfect.  I am human.
The early lives blur a bit.  The arc of your soul follows the pattern of each of your lives.  It is macrocosmic.  There was my childhood.  There have been many childhoods.  And even in the early part of my soul I reached adulthood many times.  "These days, in every one of my infancies, the memory comes faster.  We go through the motions.  We look oddly at the world around us.  We remember."
It grabbed me immediately.  Unfortunately, it didn't last for long.

Lucy Broward is graduating from high school and desperately wants her high school crush, Daniel Gray, to really notice her.  At the last dance of the year,  Daniel does notice her, but the interaction between them leaves her confused.  Why did he call her Sophia?  Well, you can guess that...

Daniel has the "memory".  He remembers his past lives and his one true love, Sophia.  He can recognize old souls that he knew in his past.  But he and Sophia have never been able to get together and experience their true love.  Now he has found Sophia in Lucy and he was unable to play it cool with her at the dance, but came on too strong and scared her off.

The book explores some of Daniel's past lives and does give some good information about the beliefs/theories of reincarnation.  However, I just didn't care for the way that the story was written.  Because of my interest in reincarnation, I finished the book, but my heart was never really in it.

And I could have bought us dinner with the $28.

Upon finishing the above book, I began reading Joyce Carol Oates' newest book, Little Bird of Heaven.  I had some trouble initially getting into the story, but I ended up liking the book quite a bit.  I do like her style of writing!

The story is primarily told through Krista Diehl, the daughter of Eddie and Lucille of Sparta, New York. A local singer/waitress, Zoe Kruller, is found killed and Krista's father is the last person to have been with her, shattering his families world as they learn of Eddie's infidelities.  Eddie is a "person of interest" in the case, along with Zoe's estranged husband.  Neither are listed as "suspects", just "persons of interest" and for years, that is how the case remained.

Zoe had a son, Aaron, who Krista had a crush on.  Krista's brother Ben was in the same class in school as Aaron.  Through high school, Aaron terrorized Ben in retaliation for what Ben's father had done with Aaron's mother.

The story covers about 20 years following the murder and does a really nice job telling the aftereffects of tragedy on the surviving family members.

Good book!

So, two books read, one book recommended.  I hate that.  I want to love every book I read!  Is that too much to ask? (yes, I know that it really is).

On a last note: I headed to Goodwill the other day to build up my To Be Read list (I always come close to a panic without several books waiting for me in the wings) and came out of there with 8 books for under $8.  Hooray!  My catchs? I got the following:
     Love Medicine, My Last Days as Roy Rogers, Surrender Dorothy, Blood     Memory, Fault Lines, Light on Snow, I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked All the Pots, and Safe Houses.

 Has anyone read any of these?  Would love to hear what your thoughts are...what should I read next?


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My Vacation Reading

I just returned from a week at Disney World and , believe it or not, got 2 books read.  Mostly on the airplanes or in bed at night!

I read South of Broad which is the latest of Pat Conroy's books. While I thought that it was good, after just finishing reading Beach Music by him, it didn't begin to compare.  So I was a little disappointed.  However, by the middle of the book, the story picked up and I enjoyed the book more.

It is a story of a family who suffered the tragic loss of a son to suicide.  Steve left behind his parents and his younger brother.  The book does a good job delving into the aftermath that occurs for the years following a loved ones suicide.  The story is told by the younger brother, Leopold Bloom King.  He finds a good group of friends in high school and the book is the story of the next twenty years of their lives and how the past affects the present.

As always, Pat Conroy leads the reader into the South, with this story based in Charleston, South Carolina.  The characters are well-developed in the story and I felt like I knew all of them well.  And I can't wait for his next book, although it will probably be quite a while, as I have read that he writes his books in longhand!

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway was our book club pick for June.  It is the story of when Sarajevo was at war in 1992 and twenty-two people were killed while waiting in a line for bread.  A well-known cellist decided to play Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor on his cello for twenty-two days at the site where they were killed in honor of them.  Three characters are featured in the book.  Kenan is a young man with a family who goes out into the war-torn city every four days to get water for his family and an elderly neighbor.  Dragan is an older man who works at a bakery and tries to care for his wife.  Arrow is a young woman who has become a sniper trying to get those attacking the city.  Each chapter tells about one of the three characters and how they are surviving the war each day.

For me the book was basically a testimony to the human spirit.  Each of the characters seemed to struggle with thoughts of life and death, bravery and cowardice as they maneuvered through each day.

The book is a short read, but very moving.  I recommend it!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Beach Music

I mistakenly got Beach Music by Pat Conroy at the library last week.  I meant to get his newest book, but forgot the name of it and got Beach Music instead.  As I began reading it, I was aware of some things sounding very vaguely familiar.  I looked and saw that it was written in 1995.  Then I realized that I even had it on my bookshelves.  I had read it 15 years ago!  I don't know how I forgot that I had read it, because it ended up being one of the best books that I have ever read.  It is a great book.  I felt like I disappeared into it for the past week.  It is so good!

As the back of the book states it is "the story of Jack McCall, an American expatriate in Rome, scarred by tragedy and betrayal.  His desperate desire to find peace after his wife's suicide draws him into a painful, intimate search for the one haunting secret in his family's past that can heal his anguished heart."

The story is about a Southern family, South Carolina to be exact.  The McCall family consists of five brothers, their mother Lucy and their father who never stops drinking.  Jack is running from his wife's suicide, yes, but he is also running from his father, his brothers, his friends, the Holocaust and Viet Nam.  He took his young daughter, Leah, to Rome to escape all.  However, his mother, Lucy, becomes ill and Jack is called home.  And so it all begins.  The past begins to unravel.  As it must for any healing to occur.

Some of the most moving writing:

"Jordan told me he broke down when he heard those words,spoken aloud, the ones he always believed in his heart to be true.  He felt himself break open in a deep undiscovered place, one of the dark spaces he had created for himself as a boy. He had wept enough in his life to keep a small aquarium of saltwater fish alive, but the tears had been fierce and private.  In front of this small, kind doctor he felt them run down his face in hot spillings.  The tears came fast because the secret was out and this odd-shaped unassuming man had gotten his mother to admit their mutual nightmare at last."

"She didn't notice that I was weeping until my brothers grew quiet.  We stopped dancing and I sat down on the porch steps.  My child held me as the song her mother and I had loved best in the world completely undid me.  I could bear the memory, but I could not bear the music that made the memory such a killing thing."
And on and on...I was so touched by this book.  There must have been some reason that I ended up reading this book again.

Pat Conroy's writing is exquisite.  I was so totally drawn into the story.  Prince of Tides has always been one of my favorite books and I will be re-reading it this summer.  I have begun the newest book, South of Broad, that I originally set out to read.  I miss Jack McCall already.