Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Read this, not that (09/12 book recommendations)

I love a good book -- though I have found them harder to come by lately. Maybe it's because I prefer books that make me laugh, or at least smile, instead of cry or want to slit my wrists (which seem to be the majority of books published the last 10 years or so). Maybe it's because I'm a former book editor and cringe when I read a poorly edited (or written) book (of which I see more and more).

In any case, when I do find a good book, one I can't put down, whose prose and characters make me want to keep reading, and whose ending does not disappoint, my immediate reaction is to tell everyone I know about it.

So following is a list of books I've read since my last Book Nook post. As per usual, I have linked the title of each book (the ones I liked) to its listing on Amazon, so you can read more about it.

Books I liked.... 


A Good Indian Wife by Anne Cherian. A story of an arranged marriage between two attractive, well-educated Indians, a doctor who went to university in the States, lives in San Francisco, and has no desire to get married, especially to an Indian woman, and a sheltered thirty-year-old English teacher from a poor but high caste family in India, for whom marriage is a way to help her family and herself. I didn't love this book, mainly because I found the characters hard to like. But I did find it interesting and thought provoking in its discussion and portrayal of arranged marriage and the culture clash and identity issues immigrants in the United States confront.

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness. The sequel to A Discovery of Witches. Think Harry Potter, if he was a female, in his thirties, with a suave, sexy, sophisticated vampire as a love interest (pick your vampire novel/series). If you are a fan of fantasy, especially tales of witches and vampires, and/or historical fiction (most of the action takes place in Elizabethan London and features many famous literary figures), and/or a good mystery, you will enjoy Shadow of Night. And did I mention it's got hot (or, technically, cold) vampire on witch sex?

The Book of Lost Fragrances: A Novel of Suspense by M. J. Rose. Scents and sensibility. Part historical fiction, part romance, part thriller. If you are interested in the history or meaning of perfume, believe in past lives and/or the concept of soul mates, are a sucker for any book that takes place in Paris, The Book of Lost Fragrances is for you.

Rococo by Adriana Trigiani. I laughed, I cried. Rococo is the story of Bartolomeo di Crespi, B. to his friends and family, a New York-trained interior decorator who has decorated nearly every home in his home town of Our Lady of Fatima, New Jersey. The book is supposed to take place in the 1970s, but the story -- of chasing a dream (to renovate his home-town church), of family (a warm and funny albeit dysfunctional Italian one), and the quest to find the perfect ottoman -- is timeless.


The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code by Sam Kean. I love a good book about genetics. More than the tale of DNA, Kean (whose parents are named Gene and Jean) explains why crazy cat ladies may not be crazy, why some people are better musicians, and the power and purpose of mutations (though sadly the book does not contain any X-Men references), to name just a few topics covered. Written for laymen, however those with an interest or degree in science will also appreciate.

Kosher Chinese: Living, Teaching, and Eating with China’s Other Billion by Michael Levy. Or an American Jew in Bumfuck (aka Guiyang) China. A fascinating, funny, and endearing look at a part of China and the Chinese we Americans never hear or read about. Highly recommend.

That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor by Anne Sebba. All I can say after reading this book is thank Wallis Edward VIII abdicated. England should be grateful. A frank biography of Wallis Simpson, the twice divorced American woman (or possibly man -- Sebba believes Simpson was intersex) who wound up becoming the Duchess of Windsor, even though she seemingly had no desire to marry the former Prince of Whales/Edward VIII.

License to Pawn by Rick Harrison with Tim Keown. This may be the best memoir I've read to date -- or my favorite. I hadn't heard of the book before I came across it at the library, though I love watching Pawn Stars on History. But Harrison's story -- how he suffered from grand mal seizures as a kid, struggled with school (even though he was a math prodigy and loved science), was a wild child who got married and had kids in his teens, and hustled his way into getting a license to pawn in Las Vegas and a reality series -- is a page turner. It's also interesting to read about and from his father, son, and Chumlee, his son's friend who also works at the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop and the so-called "village idiot" on Pawn Stars.

Want more book recommendations? Click here or on the "Book Nook" label at the end of this post.

Books I didn't like.... 

The Lost Prince by Selden Edwards. I so wanted to love this book. Who doesn't love a good, romantic, time travel book? (See The Time Traveler's Wife and Time and Again, two of my all-time favorite books.) Sadly, this was not a good time-travel book -- though a good editor could have fixed that. Indeed, after reading The Lost Prince, I wish I could have gone back in time and returned the book to the shelf instead of checking it out.

The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields. This book made me detest Edith Wharton. Thanks Jennie Fields. Feh. It wasn't that the book was badly written, though it was a bit overwritten (then again she was probably emulating Wharton and Henry James, who is also featured). The real problem, for me, is that I loathed almost all the characters, especially Wharton, which made it hard to like the book.

The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine. How can you like a book when you hate or have no respect for all the characters? While the writing was fluid, I disliked the plot and the characters -- and was so frustrated I stomped around Block Island cursing out the author (and myself, for not having brought something else to read).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Never an editor, but read a few books this summer where I felt/thought-this book needs a good editor.

Where have all the talented Englisj majors gone????