Reading Roundup: June 2009

Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith

I first discovered Lee Smith a few years ago through her novel Oral History, which I fell in love with as soon as I read it. Then I found this book on my shelf, unread, and decided to give it a go. I liked it even more than the first book by Smith that I had read; the voice in it is so strong and vivid that closing it feels like walking away from a new friend. It's an epistolary novel that spans the life of the protagonist, and while that may be a formula that doesn't always work, it is perfect here.

Before the Dawn by Dean Hughes

I know I can always count on Dean Hughes to tell good stories and tell them well. This book did not disappoint; all of the characters are vividly drawn and their stories are compelling. My only complaint with it was that I struggled to like the main character, but I believe that detail was intentional and it only made her moments of growth more fulfilling for me as a reader.

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

As an example of the craft of writing, this book is a masterpiece. Like most of McEwan's other works that I've read, his attention to detail and his ability to form sentences is amazing. But the plot and the characters were really not interesting to me and ultimately the book fell flat to me in the end. The ending was brilliant and unexpected, but I just didn't care that much.

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

After reading Angle of Repose last year, and now this book, I think I'm officially a fan of Stegner and plan to read more of his books soon. At the same time, I have a hard time pinning down exactly what I like about his writing. It's subtle and stunning at the same time. He writes about small, simple things and manages to make them compelling and important.

Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Food by Gary Paul Nabhan

I picked up this book from the library because I like books about food and I'm interested in the idea of eating more local and fresh foods. The book certainly covered those areas, but I still didn't enjoy it as much as similar books that I've read. The author is obviously a scientist and not a writer, and so the quality of writing was really uneven. In the end I thought some parts were interesting, but the book as a whole just didn't do much to convince me of anything.

Movies

The Namesake

I think this could have been a good movie, but it tried to hard to incorporate everything from the book and ended up feeling like a slow march from one major event to another without much connecting the threads together. It mostly just made me want to go read the book again.

Were the World Mine

This movie is a fun concept that was poorly executed. There were a few scenes that were not meant to be funny and yet ended up being so unintentionally. Generally we liked it, but it could certainly use some polishing up and some better acting.

Comments

jonathan kland said…
Have you read 'The Omnivore's Dillemma' by Michael Pollan? I heard an interview with him on NPR and was fascinated but haven't read the book yet. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5342514
Th. said…
.

Before the Dawn and Amsterdam are high on my list of books I would like to read, but after I read certain other books by their authors first. Glad to get your input now. Helps me feel my ordering is right.
FoxyJ said…
Jonathan--

I did read 'The Omnivore's Dilemma' and 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle'--they were a lot more enjoyable than this book. I think he just isn't a writer like the other two are; there were good ideas in there, they just came across badly.

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