• What I'm Reading: Winter into Summer 2015
    Author, Title, Year of Publication
    Brief summary & rating  
    Genre, Length, Dates I read the book
    Reminder: never read the Wikipedia information on a book to see if you'll like it.  Their "Plot Introduction" tells the whole story as a boring summary, which ruins it completely.  (Avoid the copyright page summary, too!  It's only a sentence, but it's a total spoiler every time.)  I understand some people are looking for a way to avoid actually reading, but if you like books, you have to let the book unfold as the author meant it to.  Discovering the story for yourself, making predictions, being surprised - this is why we read.  Don't let some online summary rob you of the joy of experiencing books.
    Alex Sanchez  Rainbow Boys  (2001)
    Alex Sanchez  Rainbow High (2003) 
               Nelson, Kyle and Jason are typical high school seniors: busy with sports, dating, school, college plans, difficult family members ... and coming out: all three are gay.  The books are narrated in 3rd person, but switch off to follow each of them up close chapter by chapter.  Appealing characters and realistic situations make these novels an excellent read.
               I still need to get hold of a copy of the 3rd book in the trilogy, Rainbow Road. 
               Realistic fiction.  256 & 272 pgs.  Read in January 2015. 
    AlexSanchez RainbowBoys.jpg     
    Alex Sanchez  Getting It (2006) 
              Carlos is straight; Sal is gay.  When Carlos needs some help, he looks to Sal, even though he's afraid other people will think he is gay by association.  When Sal fights to start a GSA at their high school, Carlos has to get involved.  Which side will he take?
              Realistic fiction.  224 pgs.
    Image result for sanchez getting it 
    Amy Tan  Valley of Amazement (2013) 
              Violet's mother Lulu Mintern runs a courtesan house in Shanghai, until the Qing dynasty falls, in 1912.  Young Violet and her mother are separated, one going to America and the other into another courtesan house.  Narration switches between Violet, Lulu, and another woman.  Mother-daughter relationships, the details of courtesan life, the pressures of cultural expectations, and an individual's struggle to overcome sorrow are all important motifs in a novel that beautifully portrays the time period.  Be warned: this story has both explicit material and violence.
              Audio version details: The three women's parts are read by three different women; Tan reads one herself.  In general, the reading is nuanced and interesting.  The readers vary their voices well, so following dialogue is easy. 
              Realistic historical fiction.  608 pgs. Listened to audio version, 25 hrs.
    Image result for amy tan valley of amazement 
    Barbara Kingsolver  The Lacuna (2009) 
              Harrison Shepherd is growing up in the 1930s, moving with his mother between Mexico and the USA.   He ends up working for the famous muralist, Diego Rivera, and his wife, Frida Kahlo.  He even works with Leon Trotsky, when Trotsky stays with the artists for a while.  Eventually, Shepherd settles in North Carolina, and life calms down ... until his association with the famous dissidents brings him into the spotlight.
              How good is the book?  First off, I love Kingsolver...but even I was intimidated by the novel's length.  I owned and didn't read it myself, until I got the audio version.  The novel is supposedly a collection of Shepherd's transcribed journals, with parts missing.  Unfortunately, I wanted to see that missing part, a lot, and I never did.  In addition, there are some spots where the "editor" really ought to have cut out some of Shepherd's long and somewhat boring journal rambling.  Still, I loved seeing Kahlo's life up close, and I know Kingsolver did her homework.  her descriptions of life and attitudes of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s are excellent.
              Realistic historical fiction.  544 pgs.  Listened to audio version, 19 hours. 
        Image result for kingsolver lacuna kahlo rivera trotsky  Image result for kingsolver lacuna kahlo rivera trotsky
    Louise Erdrich  The Painted Drum (2006) 
              Erdrich brings us back, once again, to the community on North Dakota's Ojibwe reservation.  This time, though, we follow a sacred object - a beautiful drum - that was stolen long ago.  The novel is narrated by three different people who are involved in the drum's journey: the distant relative who finds the drum; the grandson who receives the drum at its return, and recalls the grandfather who made it; and a young girl desperately trying to protect her younger siblings.
              Realistic fiction.   304 pgs.  Listened to audio version, 9 hours.



Last Modified on February 6, 2016