Kim Edwards’ The Memory Keeper’s Daughter


The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards | LibraryThing

Edwards, K. (2005). The memory keeper’s daughter. New York: Viking. 9780786571031

Reasons for Reading : One of my friends asked me to read The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. (Check out its entry on my TBR list.) Initially, I checked it out from HCPL. Then, I found I could check it out in eBook format from Houston Public Library.  I did this so I could read it on my Nook during my vacation.

Summary: Due to a blizzard in 1964 Kentucky, Dr. David Henry delivers his own twins. First, David delivers a healthy son, Paul. After delivering his daughter, Phoebe, David sees that she has Down Syndrome. Wanting to spare his wife, Norah, heartache, David asks his loyal nurse, Caroline Gill, to secretly institutionalize his daughter. Caroline, though, leaves Kentucky with the baby girl and raises her as her own daughter.  This split second decision changes the lives of David, Norah, Caroline, and their children.

What I Liked: The language of the narrative is lovely. Also, I felt David’s motives were well-explained by the author. He seemed earnest and loving. Norah’s relationship with her sister, Bree. I truly admired Caroline for her love and heroism. It was a relief to me that Caroline created a family of friends for her daughter, Phoebe. Lastly, I found the photography motif beautiful.

What I Disliked: Towards the end of the book, I wondered if Edwards just didn’t know what to do with it. She added in some characters in the eleventh hour to help resolve conflicts. Throughout the book, I wanted to throttle the good doctor and say “Tell your wife that your daughter lives!”

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: Kentucky Rain-Lyrics-Elvis Presley – YouTube

Setting : Kentucky, Pittsburgh, Aruba, France

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For more on Kim Edwards’ The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, check out the following sites:

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Geraldine Brooks’ People of the Book


People of the book by Geraldine Brooks | LibraryThing

Brooks, G., & OverDrive, Inc. (2008). People of the book: A novel. New York, N.Y: Viking. 9781429591065

Reasons for Reading : As I sought eAudio, I stumbled upon Geraldine Brooks’ People of the Book. While I enjoyed listening to the book, I realized I wouldn’t be able to finish listening to it before it was due. Thus, I checked out the eBook and downloaded it to my Nook.

Summary: Australian rare-book expert Hanna Heath receives an outstanding offer: to analyze and conserve the Sarajevo Haggadah when it’s recovered in 1996 during the Bosnian War. The Sarajevo Haggadah is one of the earliest Jewish texts to have illustrations. Quickly, Hanna finds peculiarities about the book – a wing of an insect, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair, and missing clasps. While Hanna examines this priceless piece of history, the reader goes on a journey in reverse chronological order – making stops in 1940s Sarajevo, 1894 Vienna, 1609 Venice, 1492 Tarragona, and 1480 Seville, visiting the people who physically impacted the Haggadah.

What I Liked : Author Brooks spins and weaves a fascinating saga. These people of the book elicit a broad range of emotions from me. I liked that Hanna seemed to unite everyone in her work with the Haggadah and I appreciated that she spoke directly to the reader whereas the other sections of the story were told in the third person. Hanna did have values and adhered to them even when it hurt her. I pitied her when it came to her relationship with her mother and that she had no clue about her father’s identity. I learned much about Haggadahs and Jewish history in Europe.

What I Disliked : So, Hanna wasn’t the only one telling the story in first person. This was confusing to me and I believe Brooks did this to mislead the reader. Also, some of the characters that I imagine were supposed to be sympathetic were not. When I didn’t care about the characters, the book dragged. Sometimes, the details were gratuitous and Brooks seemed to come across as magnanimous in her “We’re all in this together” theme.

Four Out of Five Pearls

Song: The Kingston Trio – Where have all the flowers gone? – YouTube

Setting : Australia, Sarajevo, Germany, Vienna, Venice,  Boston, Tarragona Spain, Seville, Jerusalem

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For more on Geraldine Brooks’ People of the Book, check out the following sites:

Christopher Moore’s Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d’Art


Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d’Art by Christopher Moore | LibraryThing

Moore, C. (2012). Sacre bleu: A comedy d’art. New York: William Morrow. 9780061779749

Reasons for Reading : I posted Christopher Moore’s Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d’Art on my TBR list. Check out my reasons for reading there.

Summary: News of the suicide of volatile artist Vincent van Gogh rocks Parisian baker and artist Lucien Lessard and his good friend  Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Compounding issues is the sudden reappearance of Lucien’s MIA girlfriend, Juliette and the nasty little guy who’s known as The Colorman. Lucien and Henri take the reader for a ride on the crazy train, encountering figures in the French art scene along the way.

What I Liked : Author Christopher Moore is uproariously humorous. There were numerous “ROL” (read out loud) moments throughout this novel. Characters such as fictitious Lucien and Juliette appealed greatly. The physical book is gorgeous with images discussed in the narrative and has blue typing.

What I Disliked : Some curse words here and there don’t bother me but the language used by various characters was beyond nasty. Also, I thought sometimes Moore crossed the line between amusingly irreverent and crazy wicked. One point late in the novel made a reference to bestiality that had major cringe factor.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: Bobby Vinton Blue Velvet – YouTube

Setting : Paris, France with stops in the French countryside, Italy, England, and the US

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Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot


The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides | LibraryThing

Eugenides, J. (2011). The marriage plot. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 9780374203054

Reasons for Reading : Yippee!!! Jeffrey Eugenides wrote another book. When I saw The Marriage Plot on the bestseller’s list, I added my name to the waiting list for a copy from HCPL

Summary: Starting the morning of Class of 1982’s graduation from Brown University, Madeleine Hanna faces the cold, hard reality of her breakup with Darwinist biologist Leonard Bankhead and very little promise of grad school in the near future. Her take on the marriage plot and Jane Austen’s novels hasn’t exactly wowed Yale Grad School. More immediately, she must deal with her parents. As the Hannas treat Madeleine to breakfast,  Mitchell Grammaticus, a student of Christian mysticism, who believes Madeleine is his soul mate. As Madeleine and Leonard make up and head out to a lab on Cape Cod, Mitchell takes a world tour, aiming to forget Madeleine.

What I Liked : Author Jeffrey Eugenides describes everything so well. I could see these dysfunctional characters. While I am a generation behind them, I still recognized the confusion of life beyond graduaton. Characters such as Madeleine and Mitchell were quite familiar because all three of us over-analyze practically everything.

The ending, which I will not reveal, was to my liking as well.

What I Disliked : One of my friends who read the book before I did warned me about some extra descriptive passages within the book. Going in with my eyes open, I found this book to have high cringe factor.

Also, I wished for more breaks – such as chapters. The Marriage Plot definitely is broken down into parts. However, these sections were, well, stealthy. With these Ivy League alum, much intertextuality can be found with the covers. That’s cool, especially the mention of Ludwig Bemelman’s Madeline. While this techniques offers context, it also made the book with the long sections seem infinitely longer. I’m not even going to touch the semiotics within, either.

I wanted to throttle, above all other characters, Leonard and Madeleine’s sister, Alwyn. Amongst a strange and disillusioned and delusional cast, these two deserved the padded cells and straight jackets the most.

Lastly, I liked both The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex better. Eugenides’ previous novels offered, above all else, unique narrators. The former spoke in the form of a group of men reflecting upon something from their adolescence while the latter had the incomparably omniscient Cal Stephanides. The Marriage Plot had ordinary third person omniscient points of view.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: Talking Heads – “Once In A Lifetime” – YouTube

Setting : Providence, Rhode Island; Detroit, New York City, New Jersey; Portland, Oregan; Cape Cod, Boston, Provincetown, India, France, Ireland, Greece

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For more on Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot, check out the following sites:

Tatiana de Rosnay’s Sarah’s Key


Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay | LibraryThing

Rosnay, T. . (2010). Sarah’s key. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin. 9781250004345

Reasons for Reading : I recalled my mom reading this book a few years before the movie hit American theaters. Also, working on my library’s contribution to the Holocaust Museum Houston’s Butterfly Project led me to Sarah’s Key. I checked out the book from HCPL.

Summary: Beginning in Nazi-occupied Paris in 1942, the French police arrest a ten year-old girl and her family in the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup. The girl manages to lock her younger brother in a secret cupboard in the family’s apartment. She promises to return in a few hours.

The girl’s story alternates with that Julia Jarmond, an American journalist living in 2002 Paris with her French husband and daughter. Her editor asks her to write an article commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv Roundup. As Julia investigates, she stumbles upon a fateful connection to Sarah, that little girl who stowed her brother in the secret cupboard. This link may lead to better living for Julia or the undoing of her marriage.

What I Liked : Author de Rosnay created rich characters in Sarah and Julia. The latter narrated her of the novel and de Rosnay conveyed the thoughts of an American outcast quite authentically. Sarah’s point of view was related in third person.

I adored Jules and Genevieve. These people offer hope for humanity. They’re the sort that deserve Nobel Peace Prizes.

Also, I found it sobering to learn the French police’s involvement in the Holocaust. It just shows how far brainwashing can go.

What I Disliked : This story made me very sad. Obviously, the key issues weren’t the happiest. I promise that I went into reading this book with my eyes open.

The first part of the book alternated between Sarah’s 1942 and Julia’s 2002. Then, the second part of the book didn’t. Without revealing the end, I wasn’t too keen on losing one of those points of view.

Before I forget, Julia’s husband was horrendous!

Four Out of Five Pearls

Song: Linkin Park – In The End – YouTube

Setting : Paris, France, Germany, Poland, New York City, Boston, Italy

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Lisa Jardine’s The awful end of Prince William the Silent . . .


The Awful End of Prince William the Silent by Lisa Jardine

Jardine, L. (2005). The awful end of Prince William the Silent: The first assassination of a head of state with a handgun. New York: HarperCollins. 9780060838355

My reasons for reading this book were threefold. First of all, I’m an amateur genealogist and discovered in 2010 that I may have descended from Prince William himself. Secondly, I’ve long enjoyed reading biographies and thought the True Crime genre aspect added some interest to it. Additionally, I found the reaction of William’s contemporaries to also be intriguing. Lastly, I registered to participate in 2011 Non-Fiction Challenge hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. After requesting the purchase, I happily checked out the book from HCPL.

In summary, Jardine gives the reader an overview of Protestant Prince William of Orange’s assassination by a French Catholic. Also, she sets the scene of young Holland’s struggle to overthrow the Hapsburg’s Catholic rule. She ends by describing the reactions of Elizabeth I and the birth of a nasty trend; taking out governmental leaders with bullets.

I thought Jardine did a great job in describing the players central to this episode of history. She drew Prince William, the Hapsburgs, and Balthasar Gérard very clearly. Jardine covered the points necessary without pedanticalness and I certainly appreciated that!

Four Out of Five Pearls

Places: The Netherlands, Germany, England, Spain, France

Song: “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” by Fall Out Boy
 
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  • The Wicked History Series by various authors
  • Blood and Money by Thomas Thompson
  • The Cop Who Wouldn’t Quit by Rick Nelson
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

For more on Lisa Jardine’s The awful end of Prince William the Silent: The first assassination of a head of state with a handgun, check out the following links:

Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises


Audiobook read by William Hurt

*1001 Books Book

Hemingway, E., & William, H. (1926). Ernest Hemingway’s The sun also rises. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc.  9780743564410

I attempted reading this particular Hemingway novel several years ago but wasn’t in the mood. So, I added this to my “To Be Read/TBR” list and read other books. In my perpetual quest for shorter audiobooks, I stumbled upon The Sun Also Rises in the HCPL catalog. When I noticed that the narrator was William Hurt, I decided to give The Sun Also Rises another try.

Narrator Jake Barnes  is an American journalist expatriate in Paris as well as a World War I veteran.  Injuries from WWI have rendered Jake impotent. He drinks a lot and is a bullfighting aficionado.

Jake begins the novel by describing his “friend” Robert Cohn. Cohn is a rich Jewish American expatriate who, like Jake, is a writer. Cohn didn’t fight in The Great War. Facing much anti-Semitism at Princeton, Cohn has grown a chip on his shoulder; he fits right in with his contemporaries of Rive Gauche and the Lost Generation. Cohn lives with his social-climbing girlfriend Frances Clyne.

Listlessly, Cohn seeks escape and stops by Jake’s office to get him to go to South America with him. Jake turns him down and avoids Cohn as much as possible. That evening, Jake drifts through bars and clubs and eventually runs into the love of his life. The beautiful, magnetic Lady Brett Ashley is a twice-divorced Englishwoman whom Jake met during the War. Brett loves Jake but will not commit to Jake due to his impotence. Brett does not commit to any man.  Cohn sees Brett, falls for her, and an affair ensues.

All of this proves calamitous when Jake treks to Pamplona to see the bullfights. Jake’s an aficionado whereas his friends want to party. He’s joined by fellow expatriate and war veteran Bill Gorton, Brett, Cohn, and Mike Campbell, Brett’s fiancé. When the handsome bullfighter Romero enters the scene, Brett wants him. At this point, Brett has three men competing for her attention.

The writing and tragedy are exquisite. Jake’s star-crossed love is poignant; the disconnect of this group is stiffling. Jake finds himself in a bind – should he extend Brett in the form of Romero or should he remain true to the code of Spaniard bullfighting aficionados?

Four Out of Five Pearls

Places: France, Spain, The United States, The United Kingdom, Italy

Literary Ties: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “In a Station of the Metro” by Ezra Pound, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, Ecclesiastes 1:5,

For more on Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, check out the following: