I have really struggled with migraines in the last couple of weeks. As a result, I “read” next to nothing, but listened to a great selection of audio books. My kids and I are in the last week of school, and I am working on end of year grades and curriculum planning for next year; time is short. Instead of writing long reviews for these four books (which three of them richly deserve!), I am forced by time constraints to just write one post with quick blurbs.
This novel just didn’t quite make five stars for me, mostly because the subject matter is not my favored fare. The general premise of the novel is how the senseless murder of a white family continues to affect the lives of community members, especially those living on the nearby Indian reservation, into the next generation. I loved Louise Erdrich’s flawed, believable characters and her portrayal of modern day Native American life. Definitely an author I will read again (any suggestions of other titles?); my thanks to Auntie Nanuuq on Shelfari’s Play Book Tag for introducing me to Ms. Erdrich.
Based on Vreeland’s novels, I expected this collection of short stories to all revolve around the lives of famous painters. The first few do feature major artists as a main character, but all the others revolve around the presence of art in, and its impact on, the lives of a variety of people. Some characters are artists working in various mediums, and others are everyday people whose lives are altered by the arts. As with most collections, some stories were better than others, but none of them would have rated lower than three stars and a couple were outstanding. While not the best narration I have heard, Karen White does a fine job.
This novel was a disappointment for me. Perhaps it was over-hyped and simply didn’t live up to my expectation. After the death of his wife, the main character returns physically to the cottage by the sea where he spent his childhood summers. The novel revolves around his reminisces. I had heard so much about Banville’s descriptive writing, and this sounded like just my type of novel. Let’s just say that if you are looking for a book that will make you aware of body odors which have never previously registered on your olfactory radar, this is your novel. By the end of the book I was somewhere between fed-up and grossed-out. Banville’s talents are well employed in the creation of interesting characters; however, not one of them is at all likable, which left me completely indifferent to their fates. The novel earned three stars based on the stylistic talent of the author-my overall enjoyment of the book would have put it in the two star range. John Lee’s smooth narration, in his soft, barely perceptible Irish accent, was perhaps the only thing that kept me going.
I picked this one up for two reasons-I have heard many good things about the author, and it was published in 2005, which is my Pick a Year Challenge year for 2011. This outstanding work of historical fiction follows the lives of a vast array of characters as General Sherman’s Union Army marches through Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina in the closing days of the Civil War. Even in audio format, the book is so clearly written that I had no trouble keeping track of the many figures, both historical and fictional, the troop movements, and the overall plot structure. By the end of the novel I felt as if I knew the characters. Doctorow does a great job tying up the various lines of the plot and giving glimpses into the future of his fictional characters, but I was not ready to say goodbye and wished for a sequel to let me know what transpired in their lives after the war. The Civil War is one of those eras about which I keep saying I need to read more. This book has certainly fueled my desire-I recommend it highly! For those of you who like audio books, this one, read by Joe Morton, is very, very good.