Tuesday, July 10, 2007


But only the good ones.

I just can't be bothered to write about the books I didn't think were great. I'll list titles at the end . . . because who knows what might grab someone else.

HONEYMOON IN PURDAH by Alison Wearing: Wearing is a Canadian woman who wants to visit Iran. Since it's the only place in the world she can't imagine traveling as a woman alone, she drags along her male roommate and, with a fake marriage license, the two of them spend several months in Iran as a honeymooning couple. This book made me wish I were that brave. They cross the border on a bus from Turkey and spend most of their time in small towns. They meet wonderful people who practically drag them off the streets to feed and house them. Wearing talks about the experience of being muffled in robes and veils and the religious strictures that the government imposes--but also talks about the corruption and tyranny of the last shah's regime. Mostly, I was left with a wonderful impression of the people and culture of Iran, so much more than we get in our news segments. Highly recommended.

THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini: My sister-in-law gave me this for my birthday and I'm so glad she did! About a boy's childhood in Afghanistan during the last days of the monarchy, through his exile with his father to the United States when the Russians took over, and about his moving return trip during the Taliban regime to try and rescue an orphaned boy in Kabul. It is a gritty novel, it is not easy to read, but I found it well worth it. Though there is evil in this book, there is also good and forgiveness and beauty. I'm about to start Hosseini's second novel.

NIGHT by Eli Wiesel: For book club. "A slim volume of terrifying power"--that's what it says on the cover. It's true. A book I think everyone should read at least once, about Wiesel's time in concentration camps as a teenage boy. I'm going to give it to my fourteen-year-old to read this year, since Wiesel was just a little older than he was when the Jews of his town were rounded up.

ASKING FOR THE MOON by Reginald Hill: I've become a big fan of Hill's mystery novels with Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe. This is a collection of short stories featuring the pair, from their first encounter on the police force to their last adventure, some thirty years in the future when an astronaut is murdered during a moon landing. For Dalziel and Pascoe fans.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN HARRY POTTER 7? by Emerson Spartz: This is a collection of essays from the most well-known Harry Pottery website at mugglenet.com. With chapters like "Horcruxes", "Is Dumbledore Really Dead", and "Snape: Good or Evil", the book is a fun warm-up to the big even next week. Even contains a chart at the end with all the major and minor characters listed and giving odds of which of them will die. The only certainty they offer is this: It's a book about good and evil. Evil will not win. Voldemort will die. Everything else is up for grabs. I can't wait!

THE REBECCA NOTEBOOK by Daphne du Maurier: A volume of du Maurier's essays, including sketches of her childhood cousins, the boys for whom J.M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan; a remembrance of her father, actor Gerald du Maurier; and her love for the house she called Manderley in REBECCA. Also, as the title indicates, is a collection of her notes for REBECCA, the original outline for the novel, and the original opening she wrote. You can see how things changed as she wrote the novel and she gives background on the writing of it. A definite read for fans of du Maurier.

SABRIEL by Garth Nix: Straight from my 11-year-old's hands to mine. This first in a fantasy trilogy was recommended for my son by a friend of mine who's never steered me wrong before. (Thanks, Kate!) Sabriel's father has gone missing in the Old Kingdom, a place of magic and evil across a crumbling boundary wall from Sabriel's school. Now she must take up the tools of his trade: seven bells that have the power to control the dead and send them through the series of gates that will banish them completely from the human world. Necromancers and frozen princes and bewitched cats and a teenage girl trying to help her father--this book had it all.

OUT OF AFRICA by Karen Blixen: Took me right back to Kenya from the first paragraph. A wonderful picture of colonial East Africa after WWI. Maybe not as good for someone who hasn't been there, but having bought this book in the very sitting room of the house that was Karen Blixen's, I loved it.

SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson: For book club. Loved it. Powerful YA novel about a girl who's just starting high school under a cloud and gradually stops speaking. Melinda wants to vanish, but she's got an art teacher who keeps trying to get her to make a tree. A devastatingly accurate picture of high school power structures and the sufferings of the individual. I liked it so much that I bought another one of Anderson's, CATALYST, about a senior girl who's life is falling apart--from the fire at a neighbor's house to her rejection from the only college she applied to. Definite reads for my daughter when she gets older.

IN A SUNBURNED COUNTRY by Bill Bryson: The travel writer takes on Australia this time. How could you not love a book with this paragraph on just the third page? "This is a country that loses a prime minister and that is so vast and empty that a band of amateur enthusiasts could conceivably set off the world's first non-governmental atomic bomb on its mainland and almost four years would pass before anyone noticed. Clearly this is a place worth getting to know." He travels to every major city in Australia (there aren't many) and into the interior and along the empty coasts. He made me want to see it all, not just Sydney. Even though, as he says, "There are more things in Australia that will kill you than anywhere else."

Those that I read but don't particularly feel like talking about at length . . .

THE CUP OF GHOSTS by Paul Doherty

Sigh. I was hoping this plan would cut down on my wordiness about what I read. That didn't work out. Face it, I'm a complete and utter bore when it comes to books :)


Stacey said...

Laura, what a find your blog is! I haven't had time to roam the bookstores lately and greatly feared I'd be reduced to reading cereal boxes. Not that there's anything wrong with cereal box perusing. If nothing else I know what riboflavin is.

Laura A. said...

Somehow I always seem to get stuck in the bathroom without a book. At times I've even been reduced to reading my husband's copies of Journal of Accounting. Though I don't know what riboflavin is, I can tell you what the Sarbanes-Oxley act is :)