Perhaps this is saving the best for last. Certainly my biggest feat in reading this year, I started Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina in the summertime and didn’t finish until December this year. Again, it’s a SOLID three stars. Nearly a four. There’s some good stuff in this tome and it was the pacing of the story (if you come across an abridged version, I figure it might make good sense) and the opportunity to read so many other novels with, shall we say, more modern pacing simultaneously that slowed me down with my first foray into Russian literature. For me, I did not enjoy tagging along fly-on-the-wall style to all the meetings with Oblonsky and Karenin. I did enjoy the exploration of marriage and the three case studies offered in Anna & Karenin, Dolly& Stiva, and Kitty & Levin. I compared this element of Anna to similar explorations of marriage in Austen, but enjoyed the darker elements Tolstoy exposes moreso.
A couple of fave quotes from Anna are here: http://acbrv.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/the-long-haul/
I enjoyed The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I would recommend it. It’s a solid three star rating. And yet… I was hoping for more from Neil Gaiman…
Read my short review of this short novel here: http://acbrv.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/let-down-by-a-master-of-the-mysteriously-macabre/
I was not expecting to become so engrossed. I admit I am a bit of a nut for wartime historical fiction, but In the Garden of Beasts:Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin is outside this range on two accounts: it is a non-fiction account of an American ambassador in Germany and it is set in the pre-war period of 1930s Berlin. Nervous about these elements outside of the go-to for WW2 fiction, these turned out to be fascinating and completely compelling for me. I would go so far as to say I devoured this and felt it was a real page turner. I have recommended it to my dad – something I do not do lightly. Starship Troopers was the last title we discussed at length, although I may have convinced him to try Ursula Leguin with my Left Hand of Darkness Cannonball review (http://www.pajiba.com/book_reviews/the-left-hand-of-darkness-by-ursula-k-leguin.php).
Read more: http://acbrv.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/martha-not-the-only-saving-grace-in-this-heavy-work/
I ordered a book club set of Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks from the library and while the rest of the group was deterred by the surprise audio book format (CDs) and ultimately selected In the Garden of Beasts in its traditional book-made-from-paper format, I uploaded Year of Wonders to my phone and I was glad to have hands-free access to this historical fiction title during a month that involved a great deal of travel on foot and on crowded public transit.
While easeful to not have to dig for a book from my bag or bump elbows with strangers to turn pages, the audio book certainly has its other discomforts. For one, the book is about life in England during the Reformation so life is tough and characters die left, right, and centre. (This isn’t a spoiler, the CD jacket cover outlines that this is Brooks’ exploration of a particular town’s experience and exposure to the Plague.) I wasn’t very attached to the characters and I often felt like I wasn’t able to honour them as “real” when one would fall gravely sick and just as I received that news from Geraldine (the author narrates Year of Wonders herself), in my reality I would be returning a smile to a passerby on the street or making faces to a baby across the aisle on the bus. The most awkward of these situations being during the (infrequent) sex scenes where I’d march past folks quickly on the street, rudely not looking up from the street, not wanting to make eye contact with someone as I would be sure to blush. (In my opinion, the sex scenes were too silly to cause a blush were I to have just read the text version.)
Read more here: http://acbrv.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/year-of-firsts/
I accessed Laura S. Scott’s best-selling Two Is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice via the library as an e-book and read it through my web-browser. While this method of consuming a book worked well for me for this title, I doubt I’ll embark on reading like this again. Well, certainly not for fiction. Clicking through the stats and the case studies within Two is Enough made it seem more like research and this supported my ability to remain emotionally removed from my explorations into this topic. I imagine that if I’d been curled up on the sofa reading the case studies in a regular book format the impression that I was reading a Chicken Soup for the Soul: For Couples Exploring the ‘Kids Question’ and I probably would have bawled. Dry-eyed post-reading I was appreciative at least for the reassurance that is present throughout this book that there are growing numbers of childless by choice couples as well as growing acceptance and understanding of people who say two is enough.
Why Have Kids? by Jessica Valenti is an easy-to-read mission to debunk the idea that children = happiness. As a non-parent this is something I’m interested in exploring – personally and socially. The themes Valenti (a parent) takes on are similar to Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman in their TED talk, “Let’s Talk Parenting Taboos: http://ow.ly/s5cgC
Read the rest of my review here: http://acbrv.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/heads-tails-considering-the-other-side-of-the-coin/
As a Canadian and non-mother reading this book five years after it was published, not everything is applicable and current, but Pushed was eye-opener that I’m glad to have stumbled across. I was impressed with the research and Block’s persuasive exposé that includes a few practical suggestions towards solutions that reads to me like effective journalism. Block takes issue with high Caesarean rates and routine labour inductions in US hospitals and rolls back time to figure out why childbirth and modern maternity care in US hospitals has deteriorated as such. My use of “deteriorated” here may seem inflammatory, but in the context of the medical system Block exposes as motivated to overuse modern obstetric technology because of fear of litigation versus what is most healthy for mothers (and babies), perhaps this verb isn’t strong enough.
Read more here: http://ow.ly/s6wqg
A coming-of-age novel where the quirky teen heroine is from an average, middle-class, two-parent household… and isn’t on heroin, witnessed a murder, or has supernatural powers… well, where’s the story, you might ask. The story behindTell the Wolves I’m Home is a vivid exploration of an un-average love. Lines between familial love and lust blur into a kind of love explored in such detail that it reads as a very refreshing and thought-provoking fictional exploration.
Read more: http://acbrv.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/this-is-one-book-where-id-wager-if-you-like-the-cover-youll-likely-like-this-book/
The Imposter Bride made me rethink my definition (and love) of the YA genre. Nancy Richler so clearly and painfully paints a portrait of young women – various young women, not just the imposter bride of the title, but others, too.
Richler’s portraiture of these women spans beyond their adolescence through an intricately woven flashback/flashforward timeline, but those teen years are portrayed so honestly, so human, so raw and with deep compassion beyond pity or glamour that I had to ask, could this be YA fiction? I argue that the observance and exhibition and lessons of Richler’s young women are surely more identifiable and “realistic” than the Katniss Everdeens and the Bella Swans of modern YA. I, for one, would have appreciated the tenderness of The Imposter Brideto the harshness of Phyllis A. Whitney-style smut which I was so engrossed with as a teen.
Read the rest: http://acbrv.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/surprising-ya-contender/
I’m not sure if Life After Life fits in with the “pink cover” class of novels. I borrowed this novel, KOBO and all, from the friend who chose it for book club and I’ve viewed the cover, as such, in black and white. Pink cover or not, the cute fox and the light description my friend gave left me with an expectation of a fun read, something playful and within the realm of magic. From what I understood of the premise, I was expecting a romp like Groundhog Day. I don’t consider this a spoiler alert, just an alert for anyone else with similar misconceptions as me when I first “opened the cover”, but Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life is wrenching. In retrospect, I’ve thought ofThe Time Traveller’s Wife with the hallmark non-linear experience of time and Pan’s Labyrinth and reminded myself that stories rich with mystic and magical elements are not necessarily free from serious and dark themes and moods.
Read more: http://acbrv.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/wrenching-wartime-drama/