At long last – the book reviews

Ahh, Tuesday. Or, as I like to call it, hell.

Today has been one of those special days. One of those days that gave me bad dreams the night before, from which I’m still not entirely sure I’ve woken up.

However, I think the worst is over.

And tonight is knitting, and with knitting, there is wine!

Unfortunately, I tried to remove a thumb last night (don’t ask me how, I have no idea) and I’m afraid it will hurt to knit. Under my left thumbnail it’s all bruised & bloody & my nail wants to fall off. And it hurts. *whine* It’s true that thumb removal is something I attempt to do every once in awhile (who else do you know who’s had 13 thumb stitches, on different occasions?), but it’s starting to get old.

On to happier things. Book reports.

“The Dive from Clausen’s Pier” by Ann Packer

This book was very well written and really pulled me into the main character. It was so very sad. The book starts with Carrie Bell & her fiancé Mike going on their annual Memorial Day picnic with their high school friends. Carrie & Mike, high school sweethearts and now college graduates, are not doing so well, although most of the relationship dissatisfaction is on Carrie’s part. Mike dives into the reservoir, not realizing that it’s lower this year than years past. He breaks his neck, and after weeks in a coma, emerges a quadriplegic. Carrie sews, first as therapy, then as a creative outlet.

Carrie needs to decide whether to stay with him – a decision that’s even harder now because she was considering NOT staying with him even before the accident – or looking for the piece of her life that’s missing.

So – I don’t want to give away the rest of the book, but I really enjoyed reading it. However, I was very upset with Ms. Bell at the end, because she made the wrong decision! And, I know you can’t control your characters, but dammit, what she did was wrong. And I was sad. It was a good, melancholy sad. Although, I was looking for something to cheer me up after

“Oryx & Crake” by Margaret Atwood

Well, again well written. Because it’s Margaret Atwood, and so far everything has been. This was a fun post-apocalyptic tale that was far enough removed from the present that I could enjoy it without looking nervously around for people carrying a super disease, but still eerily similar to where I sometime imagine this world is going that I got a little twitchy at parts.

I love books that are written backwards – so we know how it ends but we don’t know how we got there. Margaret Atwood excels at that style. Also, I think she fears the future.

Snowman, the main character was the best friend of ‘Crake,’ the man who engineered and distributed the super-virus that wiped out almost everyone in the world, including himself. Oryx was the woman they both loved. Oryx, a former child prostitute, helped Crake teach a new race of lab-developed humanoids how to live in the world.

At first, Snowman seems to be the only survivor of the apocalypse besides the race created by Crake in his lab – and he is not surviving well. The book covers his journey through his own memory to try to determine what happened and why he didn’t know that he’d written an ad campaign for the most deadly super virus ever known.

I read somewhere else that dystopian novels are usually boring and depressing, and while I agree with that, “Oryx & Crake” did not fall into this category. There are no good guys or bad guys, which makes it easier to relate to everyone. Although Crake is a little instance (see: created a deadly virus on purpose to wipe out the entire human race), he’s still just a guy who had a bad childhood, few good friends, and geeked out on computer games a few times too many.

Still, although it was well-written, it was not a cheerful ride with bunnies and unicorns. So, with hope, I turned to:

“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini

I can hear you all laughing already. This was the least cheerful of the three. In fact, I was so depressed after the first hundred pages that I kind of wanted to quit. But only a little, because it was so well-written (at least I’m three for three in that category).

It’s not very often I come across the book that causes me to completely hate the main character, but for most of the book, I found Amir to have no redeeming features, nothing that could redeem him. It’s hard to come back from the defining image in the beginning of the book.

Amir, age twelve, witnesses the rape of his friend (and the son of his father’s servant) Hassan. The boys who are raping Hassan are neighborhood bullies who have threatened Amir before, and I could kind of understand that he wasn’t intervening because of fear for himself. However, the part I couldn’t get past was that, because Amir was unable to deal with his own shame, he first attempted to cut himself off from Hassan, and later planted his own belongings in Hassan’s bed, accused him of thievery, and got him dismissed.

Shortly after those events, Afghanistan imploded, and Amir & his father moved to the United States a few years later (1981). It was not until 2001 when Amir was a successful writer living in the SF Bay area that he had a chance to redeem himself. And although I guess you could argue that he did, the way events unfolded before he returned to the United States from his journey back to Pakistan and Afghanistan, I became so angry – he never learned how to be an adult. If I was his wife, I would’ve left him. So, I guess it’s good that I wasn’t married to this fictional character, because I feel a lot of animosity towards him.

Anyways – not a cheerful read, but a good one. Also, it was interesting to read about pre-Soviet invasion Afghanistan. I know a lot about what happened after – during the Soviet occupation and after, when the Taliban was in charge, but it’s very interesting to read about what life was like before. I think many people in this country have a view that Afghanistan was always oppressive and Talibanesque, and don’t think about the culture and history of this ancient country. Also, my friend Margaret is going to Afghanistan soon (I will finish the hat this week!), so it was interesting from that aspect, as well.

The fourth and final book is:

“Memoirs of a Muse” by Lara Vapnyar

This book was a quick, easy read. Not uncheerful. Or at least, not as uncheerful. Parts were quite engaging, but overall it wasn’t anything special. A fairly interesting story of a girl who grows up in Russia obsessed with Dostoevsky, or, more accurately, Dostoevsky’s mistress. She is determined that someday she will be a muse, as well.

Much later, after she has immigrated to the United States, she meets a writer with the same obsession and quickly becomes entangled with him. It was only later, when she learned to read English well enough to realize that not only was he not a good writer, but that he regarded her as a harmless devotee rather than a fiery muse that she decided to move on with her life.

 

It wouldn’t hurt you to read this book, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to miss it, either.

The end.

I’m not sure what’s next – but I know there are many more books waiting for me.

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