Monday, May 28, 2012

The Flight of Gemma Hardy

The Flight of Gemma Hardy By Margot Livesey   Gemma Hardy was born in Iceland to loving parents. When she was three years old, her parents died and Gemma's life as she knew it did too. She was taken to Scotland and raised by her warm and generous uncle, until his untimely death. At 10 years old Gemma is left in the world to live with her cruel aunt and unruly cousins who despise her and do whatever they can to make her feel unwelcome. Gemma is sent to a boarding school, where although extremely bright, she is put to work and treated as a maid. Gemma learns very young how to fend for herself and begins to plan her uncertain future.  She is a wonderful character and while the reader cheers for Gemma the whole way through it is hard to know what the next twist and turn will be. The reader can merely contemplate the question of life: What do we truly need to be happy? It may begin with food and shelter to survive but friendship and love is equally vital. Highly recommend this wonderful novel. A great summer read!!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother  By Amy Chua   Memoir following the family life of Amy Chua. Amy, her husband Jed and two daughters, Sophia and Lula live in New Haven CT. Amy and Jed both teach law at Yale. Their daughters are being raised by Amy's method of The Chinese Mother way. From the beginning, Amy instills the strong beliefs regarding education, discipline, respect and time management that she herself followed throughout her childhood. Success, self confidence and most importantly opportunity were at her doorstep because of these attributes. Hard work, being the best, determination and competition are what she believes is the Chinese Mother path to freedom, which is really about having a multitude of life choices because of your achievements. Her constant comparisons to the Western way of parenting (these terms are loosely used) are generally accurate. Sometimes her methods are successful and sometimes disastrous. This memoir is an interesting, witty and honest account of one parents extreme methods to give her children the very best she has to offer. It astounds me that she later received an enormous amount of criticisms and ridicule after her story was published. I found it both enlightening and entertaining and that has nothing to do with what I believe are the correct or best methods. If we stop looking at all sides of the coin our learning and evolution cease to exist. Highly recommend this memoir, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Friday, May 18, 2012

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank  By Nathan Englander  Eight short stories. Jewish threads running through them. The title story was my favorite. Friends since childhood, two women (with their husbands) get reacquainted 20 years later. One couple is extremely religious and has been living in Israel. Their vivid childhood memories still hold them together, yet their present lives are nothing alike. After tiptoeing around the delicate wall built around them, these two old friends find they are not so different after all. These stories are short so if time is an issue its much easier to read but when the story is good enough to capture the reader, they end too abruptly. I found the other seven stories have superb writing but filled with dark humor, mysterious endings and somewhat depressing themes. I am quite certain some people (perhaps fans of Foer, Franzen and Chabon) would like this very much.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven  By Susan Gilman   Susie and Claire have just graduated from Brown University. Filled with young ambition, wonderment and an all knowing Ivy League education, they decide over some pancakes at IHOP to circumnavigate the globe. They begin their journey flying to Hong Kong and make their way to The People's Republic of China. It is 1986, tourism in China is extremely limited and monitored and Claire and Susie wonder every day if they have made the right decision or a big mistake. The backpacker mantra seems to be the dirtier, hungrier and more you "rough it" the truer the nature of the journey. Both girls experience severe stomach illness, homesickness and general malaise. Unfortunately Claires' symptoms seem to get worse instead of better. She begins to isolate herself, show signs of paranoia and completely shut herself off from Susie. Susie has to take control of this adventure and guide them both to safety. This memoir is well written, witty and interesting. I highly recommend this read to all of those who have traveled or ever dreamed of doing so.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Still Life With Husband

Still Life With Husband By Lauren Fox      Emily and Kevin have been a couple for 9 years, married for 5. Turning thirty, Kevin is ready to start a family and move to the suburbs. Emily is not. A story about love, friendship and betrayal. The writing is witty and funny and the story flowed easily. Emily meets a handsome man in a coffee shop and decides to not tell him she is married and continue into the unknown. Unfortunately after reading Fifty Shades, WE WANT MORE, (there isn't much more) and frankly I was not completely in love with Emily (a little annoying). Her husband sounds so incredibly boring its hard to feel sorry for him except that lying is bad bad bad and exhausting to boot. All in all, I do recommend this book and enjoyed this writer as long as she doesn't go completely chick lit.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Jane and The Canterbury Tale

Jane and The Canterbury Tale  By Stephanie Barron        Through the character of Jane Austen, Stephanie Barron brings us back to the year 1813, to the small village of Godmersham outside of London. Jane is visiting her brother Edward who is a businessman and magistrate of the village. They are attending a wedding at a neighbors castle when the brides supposedly long dead husband is found murdered on a path near Edwards estate. To complicate matters each suspect has a solid alibi. As Edward continues the investigation with Janes assistance, the brides maid is found lifeless in the fields. The mystery intensifies. The twists and turns in the familiar Austen voice is clear and immensely entertaining. This book is one of a series for Jane Austen lovers and those who enjoy a clever, witty mystery.