Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim

This was one of those books that looked interesting to me in the store, but I wasn't sure.  I thought maybe it might be a little dry, and really, I don't know much about Korea (where the story is set), so would I get it?  I'm so glad I picked this book up!  It is simply one of the best reads I've ever read.  It's hard to believe that someone's debut novel would be this beautiful.  I started recommending it out before I finished it (and I rarely do that).  As I said, the story takes place in Korea in the first part of the 1900's and spans 30 years.  Kim beautiful weaves the story of Najin and the history of Korea at this time.  Gorgeous!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Catching up with Books

Now that my infant daughter has grown up to a point where I feel I can read again, I'm beginning to make up for lost time.  I found myself with about $150 worth of reading material in my hands a few weeks back but refrained myself from actually buying the books.  I knew I wouldn't be able to justify the expense.  I did jot down the titles and authors on my iphone and made a library visit requesting them all.  I did purchase one of these books, and borrowed another from my mother.  The rest were library loaners.

First, A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve. 
It's hit or miss I find with Anita Shreve.  She's written one the best books I've ever read (Testimony) and then a few of the most boring books I've ever read.  This one I liked, once I got into it.  The premise is a newly married couple living in Africa during the 70's.  They find there a many hidden tensions in the land (and in their marriage).  I don't want to say much more than that as I fear giving away too much plot.  If you like Shreve's style then this one is worth reading, just give it a few chapters first.

Next up was The Celebrity Mother by Deborah Wright

It appealed to me as a possible quick read and look at the trend of celebrities who adopt foreign children.  Karina West (the lead character) was once a leading British Pop singer who is searching for a way back into the spotlight.  The young lady chosen to become her daughter is an Indian orphan named Devika.  I actually quite enjoyed this book.  It was written much better than I expected.  If you are looking for a good beach or bubble bath read, I suggest picking this one up.  Sorry no link to for this book, it is available through

And onto Old School Ties by Kate Harrison
This book has recently been republished as Harrison has had some success with later books she's written.  She did add a note at the end of the book saying how much she enjoyed revisiting the character.  It also explains why a seeming new book seems to be so dated.  This was one of those books that I marginally enjoyed, but I didn't want to leave it either.  At first I really just didn't like the main character, but I stayed in it to find out what all the secrets in the story were.  The premise is set on Tracey Mortimer, a woman whose glory days of high school popularity still shine over her unfulfilled life.  She has the opportunity to be the main subject of her high school reunion in a reality TV spotlight.

Then onto the Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn

OK, I knew I would like this one before I even opened the cover.  It's endorsed by one of my favorite authors, Margaret George, as authentically bringing ancient Rome to life...and I agree.  Rome definitely comes alive as Quinn tells the story of Thea, a slave girl who survives much and achieves much.  Through Thea's story you also find the story of Julia, the mad niece of the Emperor; the Barbarian, a gladiator and many others who are so realistically brought to life.  Definitely worth reading.

Finally, there's Baby Laughs by Jenny McCarthy
Say what you will about Jenny McCarthy, the girl can write and she is funny.  I read her Belly Laughs during my last pregnancy and thoroughly enjoyed it.  This one added to the collection.  Jenny writes each chapter essay style, so it's really easy to pick up and down (something important when you have a little one demanding your attention).  She's also very real.  I don't think I would enjoy a celebrity book that focused on being a celebrity mom, she focuses on being a real mom.  One of my favorite quotes is when she declares that having a $150 stroller is good enough for the average mom, it's good enough for her.

So what's next?  Well, I'm currently enjoying The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim.  I'm also waiting for a few more reads to come in at the library (they are newer and currently popular so I'm suspecting they may be a while yet)