Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

This is going to be one of the most difficult reviews I've had to write in quite a while. I had a lot of mixed feelings about The Reader. A summary, as spoiler-free as possible:

In postwar Germany, a sick teenage boy is rescued by an older stranger named Hanna. As he gets to know Hanna better, Michael becomes Hanna's lover. After some time, Hanna disappears without a trace...until Michael sees her again, several years later, in a courtroom being accused of committing horrifying crimes as a Nazi guard. 

The first half of the book, about Michael and Hanna's love affair, was not my cup of tea. Frankly, I don't really find it interesting to read about a messed-up thirty-something woman indulging a horny fifteen-year-old boy's sexual impulses. I think part of the purpose of this part of the book was to make me care about the characters, particularly Hanna--or, at the very least, to be curious about them--but it only repulsed me. I didn't want to learn more about the characters. The only reason I pushed on was that my mom gave me this book, so I knew there had to be more to it than first met the eye.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams

I was sure I was going to like this book. First of all, it came highly recommended from sources I trusted. Plus, the way the memoir was set up seemed to be fail-proof: the author juxtaposes her narrative of the rising of Utah's Great Salt Lake and the effect it has on the birds in the Bird Refuge alongside the narrative of her mother's slow death from cancer. Brilliant. Even more, it's by a Utah author, so I really had no choice but to like it.

...Except that I didn't. I hate to say that. I really do. This is possibly the biggest reading disappointment I've ever had because I just really wanted to like it. 

In the first half, Williams failed to make me care about the birds. The parts about her mother were the most interesting, but they were only snippets in the longer, much more technical narrative about the birds. I felt more like I was reading a newspaper article than a personal memoir. Williams made it clear how much she cared about the birds, but she didn't express this in a way I could understand. The birds were her job, and she left out no solitary technical detail. It was hard to keep my eyes from glazing over. 

But I thought, it'll get better. It has to. Everyone loves this book; it simply must get better. Well, unfortunately, it was actually downhill from there. In the second half of the book, I started to realize just how distant I felt from Terry Tempest Williams. Like her photograph on the back of the book--a black and white picture of a young woman on a boat, clasping her hands as her luxurious hair billows in the wind, looking toward the camera with a mystical half-smile that says, Oh, I didn't see you there--Williams paints herself as a mysterious, wise woman. Frankly, I didn't like this portrayal at all; I thought it was inappropriate for a memoir. Memoirs are a place to connect with your reader, to say, Look, I have these problems just like you, and I'm going to lay them out in front of you so we all can acknowledge that we're not alone. At least, those are the kinds of memoirs I like to read. Williams, instead, seemed condescending, as though she knew something the rest of us don't about nature and life and the universe. It didn't help that she started calling everything she did--driving, vacuuming, whatever--a "meditation." Oh, please. I progressed to the eye-rolling stage. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bout of Books 11: Belated Wrap-Up

Well. I pretty much failed at the last 3 days of the readathon. I did do some reading, but I didn't post every day like I planned and then even my reading kind of fell by the wayside at the end. I finished some of my goals, but not all....

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bout of Books: Day 4

Books read today: The Da Vinci Code
All books finished: Marie Antoinette, The Da Vinci Code

Okay, I didn't do a challenge yesterday because I got sucked down the rabbit hole of The Da Vinci Code. But today I'm going to START the day with a challenge!

Bout of Books: Day 3

Books read today: The Da Vinci Code
All books finished: Marie Antoinette

Well, I failed in doing a challenge today, mainly because I got pretty wrapped up in The Da Vinci Code. (Don't worry, I wasn't surprised. I figured when I started it that it would be unputdownable.) I was planning on finishing it yesterday, and I definitely could have, but finally I decided not to. It was kind of depressing me. But I think I only have about 60 pages left, so I should be able to finish it tomorrow without a problem.

I do have a lot of plans for tomorrow, though, so I may not be able to get much reading done. We'll see!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bout of Books: Day 2

Books read today: The Da Vinci Code, Marie Antoinette
Books finished: Marie Antoinette

12:45 pm: I've been busy making a pie this morning, but I have gotten some time to read The Da Vinci Code. It's starting to take over my reading, I admit, but I would like to finish Marie Antoinette today, so I'd better get on that.

Later: I finished Marie Antoinette! I spent the rest of my time on DVC, which has become rather too exciting to put down. Still not a particularly amazing reading day, but pretty good! I'm planning on doing a challenge tomorrow.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Bout of Books: Day 1

Books read today: The Da Vinci Code
All books finished: None yet

I'm usually really bad at doing challenges in readathons. But I want to this time! So I'm doing the Scavenger Hunt challenge hosted by The Book Monsters. I found all the books for this challenge on my own shelves.