Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay

"I am Moth, a girl from the lowest part of Chrystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart."
This opening sentence hooked me and I was loathe to put this book down at any point in time following.  Ami McKay's writing has a way of not just putting you there (in this case New York in the 1870's) but actually delving into the place in time in a way that you really believe you know this place, it becomes familiar - that's quite a talent.  I found this a fascinating book for that reason.  Most of this story was told from Moth's point of view, but interspersed were notes from Dr. Sadie (a female physician serving in the Bowery), and notes from various publications of the times (both real and fictional). 
There were points of this story that brought me back to Moulin Rouge (one of my favorite movies - though set at a slightly different place and time).
I was not prepared to love this book as much as I did.  I read it over the course of 2 days - the first beginning once my children were in bed for the night and continuing on until I could no longer keep my eyes open.  I will now have to go backwards to Ami McKay's first novel, The Birth House (I don't know how I missed it).

Friday, August 3, 2012

Happy Family by Wendy Lee

Hua has recently immigrated to the States from China.  It was her Grandmother's dream to send her to America to have a fantastic life.  Hua falls in love with the idea of an American life and more than anything, the idea of belonging.  As you get into her story you realise that there is more to her than first assumed.  She is shy and quiet, but has an unexpected past. 
When we first meet her, she is working as a waitress in Chinatown in New York.  She meets Jane and her adopted Chinese daughter Lily in the park.  She slowly enters into a relationship with the family, eventually gaining trust to become their Nanny.  Jane wants Lily to know some of her Chinese heritage, so her friendship with Hua seems like a perfect solution.
This book was very well written and it surprised me how easy it was to get into.  I read it in a single evening sitting (something I was not expecting).  There were more twists and turns in it that kept me going to completion.  I don't know if she has published anything since (this book came out in 2008), but I would be interested in what else Lee has to offer.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Blood Red Road by Moira Young

As I was purchasing Insurgent my Veronica Roth, the book store clerk asked if I had read the Dustlands books.  Nope, hadn't even heard of them.  She said that they were even better than the Divergent series.  If the next books are anything like this one, I will have to agree.
Blood Red Road again is set in a future dystopian society.  It centers on 18 year old Saba, whose father has been killed and brother kidnapped.  Saba sets out with her 9 year old sister Emmi in search of finding their brother Lugh and bringing him back.  What happens from there is so fantastic and unpredictable it's amazing.  Some of this book reminded me back to an old western, other parts were reminiscent of Ancient Rome. 
The entire book is written from Saba's point of view and dialogue.  It took me a little bit to get into her speech patterns, but once I was into the flow of it, it just worked.  A part of this book that I find fascinating is their allusions to 'the Wreckers', the people who came before them (us) and what was left behind.  I'm looking forward to picking up Rebel Heart (#2) when it comes out in October.  Very well done.  Dystopian, but not a copy of The Hunger Games, good in its own way!

Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth

I have my husband to thank that I picked this one up (Divergent).  I had a gift card to spend on a few books for vacation.  He saw this one by a Hunger Games display and suggested I get it.  So I did.  I'm glad I did.  If you had told me a couple of years ago that I would be reading YA books about dystopian society and enjoying it, I would have laughed at you.  It is so not like what I would normally read, but I'm really loving these kinds of books. 
This trilogy centers on Beatrice Prior, a 16 year old girl, sometime in the future in what we know as Chicago.  The society she lives in is divided into 5 factions, each separate from each other by the trait/value they hold high.  She has grown up in Abnegation (selfless).  Every year the 16 year olds must choose which faction they will become part of for the rest of their lives, even if it means separating from their families (faction before family).  The other factions are: Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent).
Beatrice's choice surprises even her, but it fits her too.  The initiation she must undertake is daunting.  The fear that everyone holds is not being accepted, becoming part of the factionless.  
Even before I finished Divergent I went out to buy Insurgent, the second in the trilogy.  I just had to see where this was going next.  There is much more going on in these factions than appears on the surface, including individual members.  It makes you wonder how much of ourselves we reveal to others and how true we are to ourselves.  Can a single virtue define a society?
My biggest problem with these books is that the third one is not out yet - Never start a trilogy where you have to wait over a year for the last book to come out! 

Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner is one of my favorite Chick Lit authors.  I find she's too real to be stuffed in with all the fluffy, breezy books that usually determines that category.  Then Came You doesn't disappoint.  It tells a tale of surrogacy.  Something I'd never read about in a novel before, a very intriguing, timely topic.  This book is told from 4 points of view: the college student considering egg donation as a way to make a large sum of money to help out her addict father, the housewife looking to become a surrogate as a way to help out her financially struggling family and the grown step-daughter, the trophy wife struggling with fertility issues, mistrustful of her father's new wife and need for a baby.  I loved reading this book and am now thinking it's time to go back and revisit some of Jennifer Weiner's earlier tales. 

The Devil's Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis

This is the first novel I've read based on the life of Catherine de Medici.  I'm a little embarrassed to say that I knew very little about her.  I've read a lot more English history than Italian and my French history centers more around the French Revolution than the age of Reformation.  The only thing I really knew about Catherine de Medici prior was that her family had a part in raising Mary, Queen of Scots. 
I found this book fascinating.  It is very bloody (but that part of history was) and there is a lot of belief in the dark arts (which she did partake in).  Beyond that, I don't know how much was fact and how much was fiction.  As with many historical novels this one prompted me to do my own little bit of research on the character and those around her.  One of the main characters of this book is someone whom very little is known about, Cosimo Ruggieri.  As well, one of Catherine's sons is missing from the book.
I was expecting a real hard hearted, difficult woman.  What I found was a sympathetic character, a pawn in her family's need for power.  I would be interested in reading more of this woman and this era and see how other authors have put their own spin on it.  Any suggestions?