Book Reviews

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Blue Highways
by William Least Heat-Moon

I'm a sucker for travel memoirs. I just love hearing about the author's trip and the people they meet along the way. But a travel memoir is only as good as the author's writing and this one is wonderful. It reminded me a lot of Steinbeck's Travels With Charley.

Heat-Moon loses his job as a professor and separates from his wife. These two events motivate him to take a van and drive around the entire country. He tries to stick to the back roads instead of the interstates. He is truly gifted at describing people. This is just one example,

"Alice was one of those octogenarians who make old age look like something you don't want to miss."

I love that! On his journey he visits towns where racism sits just below the surface, kindness spills out onto the sidewalks, mosquito swarm, fisherman swear and there's no shortage of delicious food.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the amazing Frank Muller, but had a hard copy I flipped through while listening because it included maps and photos of the people he met. I would recommend doing the same if you listen to it.

Fourth Comings
by Megan McCafferty

This is the fourth book in the Jessica Darling series. I felt like a lot of the book simply rehashes plot points from the first three books in the series. At the beginning of this installment Jessica's longtime boyfriend Marcus proposes just as she's trying to break up with him. The rest of the book follows Jessica as she soul searches to figure out her answer. I was definitely satisfied with the ending, but the book itself wasn't as good as some of the earlier ones. There's too many over the top characters that fit cliché
--> moulds. I wonder if I outgrew the series or if it was just this book in particular that didn't work for me.

The Jungle Book
by Rudyard Kipling

This classic story of a boy raised by a pack of wolves has lost none of its power over the years, but the Disney movie certainly doesn't do it justice. Mowgli's journey to manhood is so much more complicated than that depiction shows. He learns the jungle law from the vivid characters Baloo the bear and the panther Bagheera and he must fight the tiger Shere Khan, but the true story lies in his life as a misfit. Though he's raised in the jungle, most animals never accept him. Then when he returns to the human village he finds the same is true there. He has no real home and the pain of that breaks his heart.

Over Sea, Under Stone
by Susan Cooper

This is the first book in the Dark is Rising series. Three siblings, Simon, Barney and Jane Drew, visit their Uncle Merry in Cornwall and find a treasure map. A lot of the book is clearly setting the scene for the rest of the series, but it's still a fun adventure.

I wish we got to know Uncle Merry a bit better, but his frequent absence just adds to his mysteriousness. It definitely got me interested enough to read the next book in the series, which I've heard is great. It's an easy to read story that I enjoyed.

by David Auburn

Catherine is the 25-year-old daughter of Robert, a brilliant mathematician who had a mental break down. She's struggling with her father's death and her fear that she could have the same mental instability. Robert's former student Hal believes that despite Robert's disease he might have come up with another mathematical break through before his death.

One of the reasons I've really enjoyed reading plays this year is the deep glimpse it gives readers into the author's intentions. For example, one stage direction in the play is...

(Beat. Morning-after awkwardness.)

Though the actors can demonstrate this, reading it tells you exactly what the playwright intended. This play is so well written and paced. It's one of my favorites I've read this year. It doesn't tell the reader everything upfront and you have to make your own assumptions with the info you're given.

Still Alice
by Lisa Genova

Alice, a Harvard professor, begins to notice some memory loss and is soon diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease. The book chronicles her struggle with literally losing her mind. Her story is particularly moving because she is such an intelligent woman and it's heartbreaking to see her begin to regress into a child-like state. The story, though from Alice's point-of-view, also shows how her disease affects her husband and children.

Watching Alice become paranoid and confused is heartbreaking. She loses pieces of herself as time progresses and her fear and embarrassment is palpable. Genova does a wonderful job showing the emotions experienced on both sides of the disease (victim and family). It was hard to read, because it is so tragic, but at the same time I really loved it. I hated losing Alice. It's hard to explain the impact this book has, especially if you've lost someone to this disease like I have, but I would absolutely recommend it.

Photo by moi.


Care said...

I loved Still Alice, too. I can't wait for Genova's next book.
I'll check into Blue Highways - sounds great.

Becca said...

I think Blue Highways sounds like a book I need to pick up! Great review! I love that description, too.

Still Alice is one I have on my TBR list on Goodreads. So many good books, so little time!

Jenners said...

"Still Alice" just blew me away. It was so heartbreaking.

And my husband read "Blue Highways" (he tends to stick to travel books) and he liked it but for some reason, I never read it. I'll have to correct that!