Saturday, April 4, 2009

Book recommendations, Part 2

Once again, continuing with book recommendations. If you missed out, feel free to head here and leave me a comment to get your very own personalized recommendations :)

Luckygirl reports she hated She's Come Undone and The Kiterunner and anything by Jon Krakauer, while she loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Parenting Inc and Blue Like Jazz. Luckygirl, you've now mentioned two of my favorite books I loved as a child/young adult: The Secret Garden and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Because of this, I'm spurred to give you some YA-themed recommendations this time. First, how about something by Jerry Spinelli? I'm going to go with Stargirl, partially because it reminds me of your "luckygirl" moniker, but also because it's my favorite by him. It tells the story of the new girl at a high school, a wonderfully non-conforming character. It's told from the point of view of the boy who falls for her, and gets dragged along for the ride as she travels blindly through high school adoration to shunning.

Second, how about Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse? I know, I'm being so daring, recommending a Newberry award winner. Of course it's good! But this is certainly a book I would have skipped if it hadn't been assigned in a Children's Lit course I took as it just doesn't sound that interesting. It's set during the Great Depression, in the Dust Bowl. The narrator is a teenaged girl, who is having a difficult life (mom recently died, she was injured, dad is detached, etc). Oh, and it's told in free verse form. See what I mean? At least to me, there's not much about this book that sounds great. And yet it is great. The writing is very spare and tight, and perfectly fits the mood of the book. There's a thread of hope through the book that keeps it from being completely depressing.

Last recommendation: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Okay, this book is SAD. I probably cried through about 50% of it. The main character is a high school girl who has become a complete outcast after calling the cops on an end-of-the-summer party. Her friends abandon her, and she finds it harder and harder to talk, becoming effectively mute as she tries to disappear into herself. One tip: please don't read the Publisher Weekly review on Amazon if you decide to check this out. I think it gives away far too much of the book, including the ending. While it's a fairly predictable ending, I still can't believe their review gives it away!

Oh, and bonus recommendation although once again I'm going to guess you've read it already: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

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Nancy, I know what you read, and you shouldn't be embarrassed! Reading is fun...read what you like! Plus, I know for a fact that you have awesome taste in YA lit and probably could have done a much better job than me with YA book recs!

I'm giving you an unasked for bonus rec: Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series. The first book in the series is Dead Until Dark, and starts the story of Sookie Stackhouse, a small-town barmaid who happens to be a mind-reader. It's not a gift, but more of a curse as she hears many things she'd prefer not to know. When a vampire walks into the bar, she discovers she can't read his mind, making him unbelievably enticing to her. Thus begins her entry into the world of vampires and other supernatural creatures. Each novel tends to revolve around a central mystery that Sookie has to solve. I know you're not opposed to fantasy (though it may not be your genre of choice), and I know you're not opposed to a little bit of fun trashiness (which these books certainly have...I'd categorize these as a fantasy/romance/mystery mix). This is the series that the HBO show True Blood is based on. Let me know if you're interested...I could loan this to you!

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Dana, you're a total stinker, teasing that you loved My Sister's Keeper, my most-hated book of all time. Ick! Okay, for real, Dana said she liked: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Julia Child: My Life in France, and Widow for a year by John Irving. She disliked: The Other Bolyn Girl by Philipia Gregory, and The Whole World Over by Julia Glass.

I don't know, Dana, for some reason I'm having trouble getting a hold on what to recommend to you. Take a look at these and let me know if they sound interesting or if I missed the mark by a mile!

First, Empire Falls by Richard Russo. I enjoyed this tale of a town on the decline, and loved the varied, quirky-without-being-overly-quirky characters. An engagingly written novel, and I found it to be a fast read. It won the Pulitzer, so once again, this isn't the most daring recommendation ever. Also, while I certainly enjoyed this book, I must admit it's not on my "greatest books of all time" list. I just thought it sounded like something you might enjoy, and it was a really good book!

This next recommendation does make my "greatest books of all time" list: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. I'm completely in love with Chabon's writing...it absolutely shines in this novel. It tells the story of Sam Clay, a young New York Jew, and his cousin, Joseph Kavalier, who comes to America to escape Nazi-occupied Europe. The two of them create a sucessful comic book, and the story follows many years of their lives.

And, here's my off-the-wall suggestion for you. I'm guessing you've read some Vonnegut, which you either loved, or didn't love. So I'll refrain from recommending his mainstream fiction (though I can't resist a shout-out for Cat's Cradle and Bluebeard). What I'm actually going to recommend to you is God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian. This is a very short book, comprised of very short chapters that were originally produced as radio shorts for NPR. In this book, Vonnegut becomes a reporter on the afterlife, as each piece begins with him allowing Dr. Kevorkian to kill him in order for him to interview someone who is dead, then revive him to report back. This book gets mixed reviews, but I found it to be hilarious. Vonnegut's acerbic wit and succinct writing style are here in full-force. Only caveat: it is an extremely short book...you can read the whole thing in under an hour, so it might not be worth the price (though I've reread it a number of times, so I'm glad I coughed up the $10 for it). I just checked, and unfortunately, I moved this book to storage or I'd just let you borrow it :( I'm double depressed, because now I want to reread it!

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Okay, there's part 2. More to come...

8 comments:

Luckygirl said...

Interesting... I will definitely check out Stargirl. I won't be reading the other two, just because I am not doing sad right now; too much real life drama going on to handle sad books. I didn't like Little Women. Read it in junior high and just couldn't get into it, but I liked the movie :)

Oh and I saw that you recommended Sarah Vowell to someone. I loved "Take the Cannoli"

Ronnica said...

My soon-to-be sister-in-law (I can't wait for them to get married so I can drop half the words in her relationship to me!) and I recommend books back and forth, and she has recommend Empire Falls, so that's what I'm diving into right now. Too early to give an opinion on it, but I think I'm going to like it!

Nancy said...

LOL I should have known you'd find something - even though I didn't ask :) Sure - I'd love to read it. Thank you :)

I have to admit... I just picked up "The Host" by your favorite author to rant about *grin*

jungletwins said...

Ooo, I loved Empire Falls, though it broke my heart. I'm from small town Maine, and so many of the characters and places were eerily familiar. Fantastic character development in that book.

LauraC said...

More on my blog later... dropped Spook after 100 pages :( But am now reading Kafka on the Shore from the library and LOVE IT after 20 pages. Had to put it down since I started reading after the UNC game.... but considering reading it all afternoon while the boys play in the yard (82 here today)

Donna said...

OK!!! I LOVE to read - but haven't been doing much of it lately... I've got a stack of books to read but none of them see appealing at the moment...all time favorites...may be I should send you the list of what is stacked up and then you can tell me what I should read out of what I've already got...

1. The Book of Ruth - Jane Hamilton
2. The Sweet Hearafter - Russell Banks
3. Lamb - Christopher Moore
4. My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult
5. The Historian - can't remember the author even though I just read it...

Anonymous said...

This is so fun, thanks! I think that your first 2 recs for me are right on target. In fact, Empire Falls was my suggestion for my book club and we will read it in July! Cav. and Clay has been on my list of books to read for a long time, but I haven't gotten to it yet. I have read and liked some Vonnegut but nothing recently and not the book you suggested, so I will have to check it out!

He he, couldn't resist a "My sister's keeper" joke since you are so adamant about hating it. ;-)

Dana

Meg Brandon said...

I agree, Speak is really heartbreaking.. :(