5. Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris, 2002, 291 pages.
6. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, 2002, 276 pages.
7. The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry, 2008, 312 pages.
8. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, 2008, 374 pages.
Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris
This novel is the second of Harris' southern vampire series, and a very good follow-up to the first in the series. I'm not going to say a lot about it because I'm sure that those of you who haven't read it have probably seen the TV series, which I'm now itching to see, to see what these male vampires, Bill and Eric, look like on screen. I will say that I enjoyed the book very much, and look forward to book three, which I have on hand.
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Everyone has quirks, and one of mine is that only rarely can I stand to read books I've just received or bought. They arrive in my study or on my nightstand, and no matter how much I've been longing to read them, suddenly they look like horrible books, and I refuse to touch them. There are several books I got for Christmas 2009 - was given a gift card, ordered them myself - that I have not read yet. I've read two of this Christmas' books, both Charlaine Harris ones, but that's it; the rest look repulsive. I explain this to say that trishtrash sent me this book and a couple of others about a year ago and I've finally read one.
I'm uncertain whether to be glad I waited for such a treat or wish that I had read this book earlier; it was excellent writing, with such an extraordinary story line that I can honestly say that I've never read anything like it before; it is unique. The story of Jonathan Safran Foer going to find his relatives' hometown in the Ukraine, aided by a blind tour guide and the world's worst translator, was at times hilarious, and other times moved me to unexpected tears. I am definitely eager to read more of this young author's writing, and can recommend this book gladly.
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
I got this book from my mother the other night, and could hardly wait to read it, so interesting was the blurb on the back of the book. The story is of Roseanne McNulty, a 100-year old woman, who has spent almost her entire life locked away in a mental asylum in Ireland. The asylum has been condemned, and the residents to be scattered, and while he is determining what to do with his eldest charge, the psychiatrist, Dr. Grene, looks into why Roseanne was committed there in the first place. Alternating between Mrs. McNulty's own narrative of her life, and readings from the commonplace book of Dr. Grene, the story is compelling, incredibly vivid, and dragged me to the sofa where I read until the story was done. It was too good to put down.
I am terrible at trying to figure out what happens at the end of a book. Some people can guess who the murderer is five minutes into a mystery novel, and I've never been one of them. This novel, which boasts "a shocking secret", was the first time I have ever been able to tell what the end of the story would be, and I don't know if that is because of sharpened wits, common sense, or poor planning on the part of the author. Certainly my guessing did not dull the entertainment value of the story, and I contend that whatever it was up against, this book should not only have been shortlisted, but won the Booker that it was nominated for.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
We bought our 12-year old daughter the trilogy of these books for Christmas; she devoured this book and stayed up half of one night reading so much did she like it. It passed into my hands yesterday evening, and although I felt only tepid warmth towards it for the first 50-60 pages, I was egged on by the thought of my daughter's enthusiasm and by the popularity of the series, and finished it tonight after refusing to go to sleep until it was done. What an amazing book it was. I wish the second one was available right now, but alas, my daughter is reading it and they belong to her....
The story is dystopian, of a post-apocalyptic America, where the capital city demands tribute from each of the twelve outlying districts once every year. The tribute to be paid is one girl and one boy from the ages 12-18, who are selected by ballot and the chosen sent to the capitol for participation in The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games are a fight to the death between 24 young people, a fight which is broadcast over the entire country. Only one can survive, and the winner will live a life of ease in their home district. Young Katniss Everdeen is this year's female tribute from District 12, and her fate in the games is highly uncertain.
I was impressed by the strong female characters in this book; both Katniss and Rue are unforgettable. I was also moved by the characters of a couple of the young people who refuse to live or die in anyway dictated by the state; their resistance against their fate shows the author's ethical stance, which I admire. For young people or adults, this book is one that shouldn't be missed.
Next up: Justice by Michael Sandel