Monday, September 26, 2016

book report #10



*Mother Tongue (Christine Gilbert) - I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir about a mother's (admittedly crazy) idea to become fluent in three languages - Mandarin, Arabic, and Spanish - and raise her family in a multi-lingual household. I admired Gilbert's honesty. She made a few huge mistakes in her journeys (China was a giant bust) but wasn't afraid to fess up, ask her husband for forgiveness, and move on - a lesson in humility she wasn't shy in sharing and one that we as readers could probably use ourselves.

*Eleanor & Park (Rainbow Rowell) - all the feels. All the teenage angst. This book was every John Hughes movie rolled into one hormone-fueled, modern-day Shakespearean drama, and I loved it. I was surprised though - I normally can't stand love stories, but this wasn't a typical romance novel nor was it a splashy beach read. It was a tale of pure yet unrequited love between two desperate teens told with both innocence and passion, and I never wanted it to end.

*The Flood Girls (Richard Fifield) - not a fan. The first 97% of this novel painted a vivid picture of an odd and quirky small Montana town that was part A League of their Own and part American Graffiti. I enjoyed peeking into this world so unlike any I've ever experienced, even if most of the fictional residents freely oscillated between character and caricature. But then the story turned tragic for no other reason (it seems to me) than sensationalism, and the last 20 pages were entirely dark and depressing with little chance for hope or redemption. It was by no means a long or difficult read, but I wouldn't recommend this one. It left me feeling strangely empty and dubious of humanity's ability for compassion.

*The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Annie Barrows & Mary Ann Shaffer) - I grabbed this book off the library shelf for two reasons: it was a softcover small enough to fit into my purse, and I had a train to catch and couldn't spend any more time in the library. As it turns out, my methods for choosing reading material aren't so terrible because this was a delightfully surprising book. Set in the years immediately following WWII and written as a series of letters and telegrams, this tells of the inhabitants of Guernsey - one of the Channel Islands (between France and England) that spent the entirety of the war under German occupation. I had never heard of Guernsey, let alone it's particular role in the war, and this book was a wonderful introduction to a time and a place unfortunately glossed over by my teachers. It was written with humor and empathy and had me googling all sorts of historical facts alongside my reading.

*Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty (Ramona Ausubel) - an intensely compelling novel about a couple's infidelity and how a series of events and one small decision can completely unravel a previously happy family unit. Ausubel created an inhabitable world and often revealed fascinating details and backstories of minor characters for the sole purpose of adding color to the story, which made me want even more from the book. The characters were all flawed but relatable, and toward the end I was rooting for no one and everyone. Definitely one of my favorite books of the year.

*Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany) - so...I didn't like this. And it pains me to say that, because I love the Harry Potter books. I read each one within 48 hours of their release dates back in those early '00s, and hell, I spent this very evening taking a quiz to discover my true Patronus (spoiler alert: it's a grey squirrel. I'll be unpacking that one for a while.) But this play was vapid. And not written well. Or rather, written at a much lower reading level than the final books in the original series (a literary device I truly appreciated), which frankly just pissed me off. Either the playwrights didn't think a play can be written with compound sentences (it can) or they were intentionally writing for the grade school set, but either way it created a disjointed narrative. Also - the scenes were JARRINGLY short. From both a literary perspective (let's try a little harder, shall we?) and a technical theater perspective (SO many scene changes!!), it was distracting. Finally, I just didn't like the story. Without giving anything away, it felt forced, unbelievable, and obvious all at the same time. I've heard the London production of this play is fantastic, so maybe all the smoke and mirrors help hide the structural flaws in the script. But since it's unlikely I'll be seeing the play in person any time soon, I'm going to need a little more than this version of the script to keep me interested.

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