Several more books were finished during the second fortnight of June (the first half of the month’s reading is here), including one I acquired at the Orange County Airport:
From the book jacket: “Fourteen-year-old Alma Singer is trying to find a cure for her mother’s loneliness. Believing that she might discover it in an old book her mother is lovingly translating, she sets out in search of its author. Across New York, an old man named Leo Gursky is trying to survive a little bit longer. He spends his days dreaming of the lost love who, sixty years ago in Poland, inspired him to write a book. And although he doesn’t know it yet, that book also survived: crossing oceans and generations, and changing lives. . . .”
Why this book? Of all the books I flipped over at the airport, this was the softcover that appealed to me the most. I hadn’t really been enjoying the one book I brought with me and earlier attempts at finding a book to buy had been stymied. Plus when I opened it, it contained three pages of rave reviews from the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. and from publications as diverse as the Financial Times, the New York Times, and Marie Claire UK.
My take: Rudi kept looking over at me as I read this — over two flights, a prolonged layover, the Metro rides home, and then in bed after giving up on doing any more cleanup post-flood — and noted that it must be good because I didn’t want to put it down. It was, and I didn’t; ultimately I finished it before I went to bed the same day I bought it.
It starts strong: “When they write my obituary. Tomorrow. Or the next day. It will say, LEO GURSKY IS SURVIVED BY AN APARTMENT FULL OF SHIT. I’m surprised I haven’t been buried alive.” And it continues to be lucid and funny and ambitious right through to the very last line.
Alma and Leo are two very different, but well-drawn characters and it was a pleasure to watch how each one struggled to live a fully realized life — Alma just embarking on hers and Leo trying to wrap up some of his loose ends.
The secondary characters are quirky but just as loveable.
This will almost definitely make my best books list of 2006. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand love, which I hope, is all of us.
The Tale of Despereux being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread, by Kate DiCamillo
From DiCamillo’s note inside the book jacket: “The tale of your exceptionally large-eared, extremely unlikely hero”
Why this book? It was sitting on Danny’s shelf and I needed a good book to take with me to the beach. Plus I’d been wanting to read it for a while and had enjoyed Because of Winn-Dixie when it first came out a few years ago.
My take: A nice fairy tale about an undersized mouse with oversized ears who discovers his bravery exceeds everyone’s expectations. The story also features a sad princess, a maid with cauliflower ears, and a heart-broken rat with a love of light.
This book would be an enjoyable read if you have ever felt like you didn’t quite fit into your prescribed role within society. Whether it’s that you love fairy tales or that you yearn for something that you’re not allowed to have, you will find something within this story to cheer you.
Why this book? Rudi picked this up for me at ALA this spring and when I blogged about it coming home with me, it piqued Danny’s interest, who then went out and bought and read it. So then I had to play catch-up.
My take: I really liked Mosca Mye, a young girl whose father taught her how to read before he died, leaving her orphaned and with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. She, like many of us, has a love of words and of storytelling and of reading. You accompany her as she embarks upon the biggest adventure of her life and as she, like the rest of us, has to learn whom to trust and how much.
Her companions on her journey include a vicious goose named Saracen and Eponymous Clent, a thief, a spy, and a charming scalawag of a storyteller.
Before long Mosca and her fellow travellers have left her small hometown behind and have headed to the county seat, a large city headed by a pixelated Duke with a love of symmetry and run by the guild of Stationers who dictate what may be printed and read. A plot to unseat the Duke is at hand and somehow Mosca finds herself at the very center of it.
A delightful read containing real philosophy about the role of government, newspapers, and an educated populace.
Grab on to Me Tightly as if I Knew the Way, by Bryan Charles
Why this book? The Washington Post‘s Source writers gave it an A- two weeks ago, reminding me that I’d picked up a proof of it back in March.
My take: I slogged through this one, waiting to see why the Source had liked it so much.
Conceivably I ought to have liked the book more. The main character, Vim, and I graduated from high school the same year. But even I didn’t recognize all the pop references the author threw in, and it began to seem more gratuitous than anything else. Maybe this same feeling haunts those reading books peppered with multi-syllabic words, but the first half of the novel just left me feeling frustrated and resentful.
But the second half did pick up when the author left his obsession with early 90s music behind and instead focused on character development. Vim went from being a hard-partying 17-year old I didn’t particularly like to someone who could admit that he had been hurt by his past and that he was confused by what his purpose in life was, a universally relatable quandry.
I so disliked the first half of the novel that I’m not sure I’d recommend anyone else read it just for the truths unearthed in the second half, but I leave that up to each reader to ultimately decide.
Total pages read for Kat with a K’s Summer Reading Program to date: 2203
Total books read in June: 8