Monday, July 29, 2013

BOOK: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 477 pages

More character driven than her last book (Half a Yellow Sun), Americanah started strong, but faded for me a bit at the end of the 477 pages. The book follows Ifemelu and Obinze, from their teenage love affair, to their separate lives in the US and UK, to their return to Nigeria years later. I liked everything, especially the race and immigration experience in the US, and the blog entries written by Ifemelu, up to when they both returned to Nigeria.

I guess I preferred the race aspect of the story to the love story, which isn't how I usually roll. It didn't help that I didn’t like Obinze that much, even though Ifemelu kept describing him in glowing terms. She was the only one who really liked him. There was a good line at the end about how Ifemelu’s friends didn’t see all his wonderful qualities as she did. Isn't that always the way with boyfriends and friends?  I didn’t care if Ifemelu and Obinze got together at the end. I particularly liked the blog entries, and their experiences in US and UK more than the Nigeria part of their life.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

BOOK: Paris to Die For by Maxine Kenneth

Paris to Die For by Maxine Kenneth, 337 pages

Paris in July

In 1951, a young Jacqueline Bouvier doesn't want to settle down with the Social Register stock broker her mother wants. She's looking for some adventure, so when a family friend from the CIA offers her a mission (you have to just go with it!) she jets off to Paris to meet with a potential Russian defector. Jackie is a natural, at attracting men, and getting out of bad situations. She even manages to evade an assassin intent on killing her, many, many times! He never graduates to more than a knife, and seems to be the worst assassin in the world. But just go with it!

And that is what I had to do everytime some unbelievable event happened - just go with it. I don't think this book is meant to be a true adventure/spy novel - it's a lot more fun than that. Books can't be judged for what they are not meant to be, as I kept reminding myself throughout the book. Jackie seems as intent on falling in love with her assigned French, dashing agent of the CIA as completing her mission. Hey, why hasn't another agent been assigned, since everything went wrong the first night? No, don't think about that. Hey, Jackie fell from a second floor building, she shouldn't have survived, no, don't think about that. Hey, Jackie and Jacques break into a famous art gallery, and evade all the local police and security? No, don't think about that.(Plus, post 9-11, security is much different) Jackie runs into every famous person in Paris, before they become famous. No, don't think about that.

You don't read this book for the character development, or the realism. You read this for a fun look at a debutante life in 1951, flitting around Cold War Paris, getting in (and miraculously out of) scrape after scrape. It was a fun tour of Paris, and many of the famous name drops are done from a looking back point of view, especially with Jackie. (After watching Maria Callas sing opera, she imagines the fight Maria would put up if someone took her husband, heh)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

BOOK: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin, 272 pages

This is a book I remember reading rave reviews of a few years ago, and it lived up to recommendations. Mississippi now, and in flashbacks to the 1970s, as two characters, one black and one white, become somewhat friends. Larry Ott, possibly the saddest character I've read in a while, was accused although never charged after a girl he dated went missing. Since she was never found, he lives under that suspicion. Silas Jones, the black friend, has grown into the town Constable.

The book is about race, and friendship, and loneliness. Actually quite timely as I was reading this as the Zimmerman trial ended. Being found not guilty (or never even charged) does not guarantee that you get to just continue your life. Societal punishment can be even worse than jail time. Really good novel, with a bit of a mystery that although telegraphed long before the end, was still heart-breaking.

also reviewed: wendy at caribousmom; bookfool at bookfoolery; rhapsody in books; gavin at page247; suziqoregon at whimpulsive; maggie at maggiereads;
(When I started looking up other reviews, I found nearly every bookblogger I know! I picked a few but left out a bunch because there were too many. I knew I had read tons of rave reviews a few years ago. Are you the other last person who hasn't read Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter?)

Friday, July 19, 2013

BOOK: Murder on Montparnasse by Kerry Greenwood

Murder on Montparnasse by Kerry Greenwood, 256 pages

Paris in July; Series Challenge (book 12 of 20)

Phyrne Fisher is my hero. She's a woman far ahead of her time. Granted, it's her money that allows her to do what she likes, but she still does it. Set in 1920s Melbourne, the effects of the first world war are still being felt. Because she was an ambulance driver in France, I think she knows life is fleeting, and thus does what ever she wants. Be a dame detective? check. Have a Chinese lover and invite his intended wife over for dinner? check. Take in abused girls and give them opportunities? check. Wear the most fashionable, scandalous outfits? check and check.

Most of the books in this series are set in Australia, but luckily for Paris in July, much of this book is a flashback to Phryne's (fry-knee) time in Paris after the war, when she was hanging with the art crowd.  Her buddies, Bert and Cec, met up with their army buddies in Paris for a crazy couple of days, and now, ten years later, someone is killing them off in Australia. They must have seen something, and Phryne is going to solve the case.

Phrne Fisher books are light, but with a noir feel, with dames that carry guns and aren't afraid to use them and snappy dialogue. Although set in the same time as Maisie Dobbs, they are really the exact opposites. I enjoy both, especially for the connections both have to the first world war and its effects, but where Maisie is methodical and introspective, Phryne flies along (sometimes in her plane!) and figures things out very quickly.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

BOOK: Agent Gates by Camaren Subhiyah and Kyle Hilton

Agent Gates and the Secret Adventures of Devonton Abbey by Camaren Subhiyah and Kyle Hilton, 130 pages

Are you a fan of Downton Abbey and all its glorious excesses? Are you in withdrawl after the last season in January on PBS and impatiently waiting for another season? (There will be more, right?) Then Agent Gates and the Secret Adventures of Devonton Abbey (a parody) is just the reading fix you might be needing.

It's a quick read, in graphic novel form. None of the names are quite the same - Gates for Bates, O'Malley for O'Brien, Mr Larson for Mr Carson, but the drawings match the actors in the roles perfectly so you know exactly who is who. The writing and characters are so perfectly done that I could hear the actors voices in my head exactly, even the minor characters.

The premise is that the British Secret Service (SIS) has Devonton Abbey as a headquarters outside London, with agents disguised as servants. Their job is to thwart attacks that may be dangerous to the Crown, and stop the impending war in 1914. Will the agents save Archduke Franz Ferdinand from assassination as he visits Devonton Abbey?

My favorite exaggeration of character was Lady Cynthia, based on Lady Sybil, forever taking up causes of the downtrodden, while continually downtrodding those around her, or for women's rights which amount to her rights to be a rich lady. Hilarious! Edith, here called Ethel was as pathetic and ignored as you would expect. However, I think the caricature of her on Jimmy Fallon's parody, Downton Sixbey, is even funnier.

It's a sign of a great show if it inspires parody, right?  If you get stuck browsing around youtube, another good one was the SNL 'preview'.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Top Ten Books I've Read So Far In 2013

I missed last week's topic, Top Ten Books I've Read So Far In 2013. Since this week is even closer to the half way point, I'm going to go with it now. To see other posts on this week's topic, Top Ten Most Intimidating Books (might be intimated by size, content, that everyone else loves it but you are sure you won't etc) , head over to here at The Broke and the Bookish.

Small Island by Andrea Levy (just after WW2 in London, should be called Queenie, my review)

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin (historical mystery; female coroner;immediately bought the next book in the series;  my review)

Whirl Away by Russell Wangersky (short story collection; Canadian; my review)

Z: a novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler (fictional biography; just the thing to read after watching Gatsby to stay in the mood;  my review)

The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman (1920s Australia; heart-breaking; my review)

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling (audiobook/comedy routine; funny, strong woman; my review)

Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple (smart and funny; my mini review)

The Dance of the Seagull by Andrea Camilleri (14th in series; just as strong as ever; my review)

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (must read everything author did not disappoint; my review)

I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had by Tony Danza (non-fiction memoir of his time in a Philadelphia high school; my review)