Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Little Review time: 4 quickie reviews!

There are a few books I read this year recently that have yet to be reviewed, so I'm going to do a quick little review of those books now!

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindall:  Gone Girl meets Gatsby? Not quite sure how to describe this little "thriller" set in Roaring 20s New York City.  Rose, plain, hard working orphan girl meets glamour girl, Odalie at the police department, where Rose works as a typist.  Odalie has a mysterious past, as well as an unusual present. Rose is intrigued, obsessed even, with the seductive woman.  Crazy read.  (I read this one because one of my bookish friends called me and asked me to, so we could discuss the crazy ending!)  4stars

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri:  I'm giving this one 4 stars because it IS Jhumpa Lahiri, and her writing is amazing. However, this one came up a bit short compared to The Namesake, or even Nell Freudenberger's The Newlyweds, which I adored.  Subhash and Udayan are two brothers, close in age, who grew up in Calcutta. But their paths diverge as the grow into young adults: Udayan becomes a radical and Subhash goes to Rhode Island, to go to college.  Tragedy strikes, changing the lives of the Mitra family in ways they could hardly imagine on both sides of the oceans that separate the brothers.

I just adore Lahiri's writing, and she does have a way with a story.  I just had a funny feeling that something was missing here. And my book group friends pretty much felt the same way. Definitely worth reading if you are a Lahiri fan.   4 stars

The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam:
This was a book I selected to read and be the moderator for on an online (Facebook) book group. Initially, I was hesitant and a bit worried, since I was not sure if I would like this book, the premise sounded weird.  Do not fear, I was immediately sucked into this story.  It reads like an Amy Tan story (the close family ties, hopes and dreams of a Chinese family for their future and children), but is set in Vietnam during that terrible conflict.

Percival is a person with many faults, but his worse fault may also be most beneficial to his survival: he is in constant denial of the actual situations in front if him. Whether it is about his son, his father, his ex-wife, his new girlfriend, or the person he entrusts his family business to, he really never seems to be able to acknowledge what the truth is.  Percival's story is both painful and illuminating, and his experience as a Chinese national in Vietnam in the 1970's will have the reader nervous. Tons of symbolism and interesting statements for discussion here, this would truly be a great read for any book group. Historical fiction at its best!  5stars

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand:   Incredible story of a determined and strong American soldier, Louis Zamperini, during WW2 who overcomes the most insurmountable and horrific treatment as, first, he survives a plane crash on the open water for over a month, and then, spends 2 years as a Japanese prisoner of war, under a brutal and sadistic camp leader.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you know about this incredibly popular book, and the man it is about. This kind of story should be required reading for all American high school students: not just because it about the Greatest generation and one of its biggest heroes, but because Zamperini is NOT perfect. He is a flawed human being, with many emotions and hopes and dreams like any other person on this planet, and even after his odyssey in the Pacific, he still struggles. Very human. I had to stop reading this several times, due to the highly charged subject matter!

My only criticism of this book is that often, Hillenbrand's technique for trying to end chapters on a cliff hanger where there is none can be a little trying at times. No need to manufacture suspense here, truly. The story is so amazing, there is no way anyone can be bored by it.  4 stars

Next up: my top reads for 2013 coming in a few days.

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