More May Book Reviews

I have been reading, reading, reading…..trying to fill the gap for Marlene? Nope, I just had so many books folks had recommended that I spent an hour searching them and putting them on my library hold list, then suspending groups so that every two weeks I get three new books. I love this processes, although a few times I got behind….had to put all my responsibilities on hold and just read!

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence. This one came from Marlene and I’m sad she isn’t doing her reviews anymore because I want to know what she thought….of course I can just call and ask her! If she gave it to me than I know it was a recommend and I LOVE THIS BOOK! I have to say stories told from the point-of-view of a very smart kid are my favorites. In this one Alex Woods is hit on the head by a meteorite when he is ten years old. Now he is seventeen and he is telling you about his live in between these two events…well done and engaging, I read the whole thing in two days and ordered Extence’s next two books. Rate: 4.5

If Morning Ever Comes by Anne Tyler. This is her very first novel, written when she was twenty-two years old, in 1964. I think the first book I ever read of hers was The Accidental Tourist (published in 1985), and I was an adult at the time (it was for my mother’s book club, which I wasn’t a member of and I didn’t go, but even then I read what my mother recommended.) So this one was new to me. It is the perfect example of how much writing has changed since the 60’s. The story of a young man, Ben Joe, and his impulsive trip home from law school. Introspective, not much action, and not a very high adrenaline plot. But the exploration of the psych was reminiscent of another book I just reviewed (Stoner). I think that people were just beginning to feel comfortable talking about their doubts or all the things wrong with a so called perfect life. Interesting read from a historical perspective, but not a page turner. Rate: 3.0

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. I ordered this book because it is about a girl in Oakland in the 60’s….my time. Three sisters travel from the east coast to stay with their AWOL mother for a few weeks. Their mother is a distant memory in the mind of the oldest girl, eleven year old Delphine, her two younger sisters don’t remember Cecile at all. The girls have to adjust to life in Oakland as well as being turned out each day on their own. It is a middle elementary school level book. I liked it, but I haven’t read this age group for some time, so I had mixed feelings. I know things have to be simplified, but I felt like a child who had no idea who the Black Panthers were might not have a good concept…it seemed like there were assumptions of knowledge. Anyway, not going to rate it, but I am going to pass it on to my mother and daughter.

The Way I Found Her by Rose Tremain. Another oldie, passed along to me. I really liked this book, because as previously said, I like stories from the child’s point of view. Thirteen year old Lewis is precocious and talented and headstrong. He travels from England to Paris for the summer, accompanying his mother on a job to translate a novel. Left to his own devices (with the wonderful dog of the author to walk each day) this is a coming of age novel with all the wonderful ins and outs of growth and dependence. Add in the thrilling aspects (no spoilers!) and the novel is captivating. Rate: 4.0

The Mirror World of Melody Black by Gavin Extence. Once I read this author’s first book, I had to read more. But I had to send to UK to get the books…I read this one first, and the wait was well worth it. Extence reminds me of Jeffrey Eugenides in that as I read about Abby and her highs and lows I immediately guess that Gavin Extence has experienced both depression and mania. In his afterword note he describes his own struggle. So…that said, this book takes you very deep inside the character, who finds her neighbors body at the beginning of the story. Her relationships, her dreams, her daily life…it is all there to experience. Rate: 4.0

The Colour by Rose Tremain. Yes, I am binge reading Rose Tremain. She is a prolific author and there are a lot of books to work my way through. So far, each one is completely different. This author has either traveled everywhere or is a great researcher. Historic details are fantastic. This novel is the story of a newlyweds Joseph and Harriet Blackstone and their journey to New Zealand to settle. The story starts in 1864, as a new wave of gold fever strikes. With close relationships built between the reader and both characters I found myself so distressed by their faltering relationship. What a great story! Rate: 4.5

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain. Her books just keep getting better. With each one I read I am again amazed at the unique stories. She has won so many awards, and I can see why. I am just puzzled I have missed out on reading her books for all these years. This is the story of young GustavPerle, growing up in a small town in Switzerland after WWII has finally come to an end. We are deep within this boy’s mind for the first section of the book, then beat a hasty retreat to see the world through the eyes of his mother…a good look into how the character he lives with has come to be. The mystery of the emotions is neatly woven into the tale, with not so surprising, but comforting reveals at the end. I was routing for the characters throughout. Rate: 4.5

Music and Silence by Rose Tremain. Yes, I am binging. Marlene asked me why I liked to do this…I think it is because when I find a good author I desperately want to figure out what they do so that I can learn from them and become a better writer for it. Tremain has so many books! Although I am thinking I’ll take a break, I don’t. I just go back and search for the next award winner. I think that every writer has times when they want to venture out into something off the beaten track. This might be one of those books. According to the book flap this is the story of (name) a young lutenist in the King of Denmark’s orchestra, but the reader is introduced to many characters via a different writing style. We are deep into each characters thoughts via untraditional journal entries, thoughts, descriptions, with little other than a brief heading to separate them. The book is not in chapters, but these paragraphs which hop around. That said, Tremain is an excellent writer and she pulls it off. This is a long book, and I didn’t swallow it whole with the rapidity of the previous novels, but I liked it just the same. Rate: 4.0

Key for my personal rating system:

5.0 – A book I will never forget, will quote, will tell everyone I know they MUST read it.

4.0 – An excellent book, but doesn’t quite make the best books of all time list.

3.0 – A recommendation, good read, decently written

2.0 – Some redeeming qualities, I finished it, but I’m not likely to seek out more by the author.

1.0 – Don’t wast your time.