Sunday, September 06, 2009

Reading Musings

As most of you know, I'm an avid reader. I spend a great deal of my free time reading. So, I thought I'd share a few of the books I've read recently in case you're interested in checking them out ... And I'll probably continue to do this on occasion.   I'm going to intentionally include a variety of genres from literary to mystery to paranormal to young adult and so on. That way there will be something for everyone!

First, I wanted to tell you about an incredible podcast about books and reading that I absolutely LOVE. I look forward to their weekly discussions and if you're a reader, I suspect you'll enjoy their perspective as well. The podcast is done by Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman who work in the publishing industry.Their passion for books is evident and I've loved every single recommendation that I've tried from their podcost. The Books on the Nightstand website has regular blog posts about books as well as posts about each podcast. You can access the podcasts at their site or via I-Tunes. I definitely recommend that you check them out.

Secondly, I spend a gerat deal of time at Goodreads which is an amazing site for those who love books and reading. It is how I track my reading lists - what I've read, what I want to read. I also participate in a number of book groups over at the site which has been great since I no longer participate in a book group since moving to Missouri.  Goodreads describes itself this way: "Goodreads is the largest social network for readers in the world. We have over 2,400,000 members who have added over 57,000,000 books to their shelves. A place for casual readers and bona-fide bookworms alike, Goodreads members recommend books, compare what they are reading, keep track of what they've read and would like to read, form book clubs and much more. Goodreads was launched in December 2006."  So, I definitely recommend that you check it out if you enjoy books and reading.

Okay, onto some books that I recommend ...

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

As described on Goodreads -
"Hailed for its coiled eroticism and the moral claims it makes upon the reader, this mesmerizing novel is a story of love and secrets, horror and compassion, unfolding against the haunted landscape of postwar Germany.

When he falls ill on his way home from school, fifteen-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover—then she inexplicably disappears. When Michael next sees her, he is a young law student, and she is on trial for a hideous crime. As he watches her refuse to defend her innocence, Michael gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a secret she considers more shameful than murder."

I read this book just last week in part because I want to see the movie that was recently made of the book (and I hate seeing movies based on books without reading the book first!). I'm a huge Kate Winslet fan and she received a lot of accolades about her role in the film. Anyway, I really enjoyed the book. It's written in a very straighforward, sparse style which added to the experience of the novel. It was very thought provoking but it definitely wasn't as heavy as it could have been given the Holocaust theme.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

As described by Good reads -
"Chloe Saunders sees dead people. Yes, like in the films. The problem is, in real life saying you see ghosts gets you a one-way ticket to the psych ward. And at 15, all Chloe wants to do is fit in at school and maybe get a boy to notice her. But when a particularly violent ghost haunts her, she gets noticed for all the wrong reasons. Her seemingly crazed behaviour earns her a trip to Lyle House, a centre for 'disturbed teens'. At first Chloe is determined to keep her head down. But then her room mate disappears after confessing she has a poltergeist, and some of the other patients also seem to be manifesting paranormal behaviour. Could that be a coincidence? Or is Lyle House not quite what it seems...? Chloe realizes that if she doesn't uncover the truth, she could be destined for a lifetime in a psychiatric hospital. Or could her fate be even worse...? Can she trust her fellow students, and does she dare reveal her dark secret?"
I listened to this book by audiobook on my way to and from work each day. First and foremost, this is a young adult series with a paranormal focus. I'm a huge fan of Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series and was intrigued at the idea of her writing a young adult series. I really enjoyed this story and absolutely adored every moment. I was literally sad when it was over.  The narrator was excellent. The first 20 minutes of the book felt 'off' but as soon as I got past that I was intrigued and amazed. I The characters were wonderful - very well thought out and engaging! Kelley Armstrong made each character come ALIVE! The best part ... its a series so I just picked up the Awakening which I plan to begin listening to immediately!
 My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As described at Goodreads:
"One day in early spring, Dorrit Weger is checked into the Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material. She is promised a nicely furnished apartment inside the Unit, where she will make new friends, enjoy the state-of-the art recreation facilities, and live the few remaining days of her life in comfort with people who are just like her. Here, women over the age of fifty and men over sixty--single, childless, and without jobs in progressive industries--are sequestered for their final few years; they are considered outsiders. In the Unit they are expected to contribute themselves for drug and psychological testing, and ultimately donate their organs, little by little, until the final donation. Despite the ruthless nature of this practice, the ethos of this near-future society and the Unit is to take care of others, and Dorrit finds herself living under very pleasant conditions: well-housed, well-fed, and well-attended. She is resigned to her fate and discovers her days there to be rather consoling and peaceful. But when she meets a man inside the Unit and falls in love, the extraordinary becomes a reality and life suddenly turns unbearable. Dorrit is faced with compliance or escape, and...well, then what?

The Unit is a gripping exploration of a society in the throes of a system geared toward eliminating those who don't contribute by conventional means, in which the "dispensable" ones are convinced under gentle coercion of the importance of sacrificing for the "necessary" ones. It also looks deeply into the nature of the female psyche, at its resilience and creativity under dire conditions. Ninni Holmqvist has created a debut novel of humor, sorrow, and rage, that explores love, the close bonds of friendship, and a cynical, utilitarian way of thinking disguised as care."

This was a book that was recommended by Books on the Nightstand during a podcast about dystopic novels. I tend to be drawn to those novels and the worlds that they create (other excellent dystopic novels that I would recommend include The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and the Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood). I found this particular social dystopia novel to be wonderful. I didn't want to put it down. It was fascinating reading. The concept was interesting and intriguing. The world created by Ninni Holmqvist was striking in part because of the detachment inherent in society and the Unit. The prose was very sparse and not particularly elaborate but I felt it added to the overall feeling of the novel effectively. The entire idea of being dispensable gave me a great deal to think about ... the relationships among those on the Unit were heartwarming and interesting. I really became engaged in their world, feeling as if I were walking those halls and experiencing it all myself. Overall, a very touching and thought provoking novel.  
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

As described by Goodreads - 
"A publishing sensation across Europe—two million copies sold and months at the top of best-seller lists. A spellbinding amalgam of murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue.

It’s about the disappearance forty years ago of Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden . . . and about her octogenarian uncle, Henrik, determined to know the truth about what he believes was her murder.

And it’s about Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently at the wrong end of a libel case, hired by Henrik to get to the bottom of Harriet’s disappearance . . . and about Lisbeth Salander, a twenty-four-year-old, pierced, tattooed genius hacker, possessed of the hard-earned wisdom of someone twice her age—and a terrifying capacity for ruthlessness—who assists Blomkvist with the investigation. This unlikely team discovers a vein of nearly unfathomable iniquity running through the Vanger family, an astonishing corruption at the highest echelon of Swedish industrialism—and a surprising connection between themselves.

A contagiously exciting, stunningly intelligent novel about society at its most hidden, and about the intimate lives of a brilliantly realized cast of characters, all of whom must face the darker aspects of their world and of their own lives."

This is another Books on the Nightstand recommendation and it may be one of my favorite books of the year. This was so well written and each character just came alive until I truly felt as if I knew them. I'm so glad that I found this book. And I'm thrilled that this is the first of a trilogy so that I can revisit this world again in the next two books. Although I loved this book, I've just begun the second book of the trilogy and I'm loving it even more than this one ... which is saying a great deal. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a book that is within the mystery genre but it so well written and intelligent that it blows most mystery novels out of the water!
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

1 comment:

Michael Kindness said...

thanks so much for your Books on the Nightstand shoutout... we love our listeners!