July Picks

Raewyn and Lynne have been reading:

Wood, Patricia (2007) Lottery. Penguin.  With an IQ of 76, Perry L. Crandall is often mistaken for retarded. But he knows the truth: “You have to have an IQ number less than 75 to be retarded. I read that in Reader’s Digest.” Abandoned by his mother at a young age, Perry lives with his cantankerous but good-hearted Gram, who tells him that there’s nothing wrong with being a little slow.  Shortly after her death, cheated out of his inheritance by his conniving family, Perry moves into an apartment above his employer’s shop watched after by his best friend, Keith. Perry’s world is transformed overnight when he wins a $12 million jackpot.  After a lifetime of being teased, ignored, and shunned, Perry is suddenly everybody’s best friend.  Smart and charming. Rating: 9/10

Jan’s been reading:

Rash, Ron (2008).  Serena.  Harper Collins.  Pemberton was warned that Serena had a frightening reputation but he couldn’t resist the pull of this beautiful, supremely confident and physically strong “goddess”, so he marries her and takes her back to his timber camp in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina to make their fortune. The ruthless and unscrupulous Serena rules the timber camp with the power of life and death.  This Depression era saga is uncompromising, and the characters are grounded by the harsh realities of the wilderness.  A tale of ferocious greed, rabid land grab, and deforestation set against  the political will to claim land for the establishment of national parks this novel reads like a drama.  Rash has always appreciated Elizabethan drama, including Shakespeare, but especially Marlowe.  In this novel he has created 4 parts and a brief “Coda” which, in a nod to Marlowe, provides a fitting end to the tragedy of Serena.   A must read.  Rating: 9/10

Stockett, Kathryn (2009)  The Help. Penguin:Fig Tree.   Three extraordinary women of determination start a movement in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s.  Their clandestine project exposes the lives of black maids and the white women they work for.  There has been some controversy about this book being written by a white woman (Stockett), with heavy dialect, in the voices of black women.  A powerful reading experience.  I put off reading this book for sometime, but I am pleased that Tracey from the Village Bookshop in Matakana insisted that I read it.  Rating: 9/10

Walker, Martin (2009) The Dark Vineyard; a case for  Bruno, Chef of Police. Quercus. The second Bruno novel in this charming series set in rural France is a tale involving environmental sabotage, a Californian wine mogul wanting to invest in the commune, long held grudges, and fine food and wine. Relaxed and full of good humour. Rating: 8/10

Lynne’s been reading:

Abdolah, Kader (2006) My Father’s Notebook. a novel of Iran.   Harper Collins. When he was a boy, Aga Akbar, the deaf-mute illegitimate son of a Persian nobleman, traveled with his uncle to a cave on nearby Saffron Mountain to copy a three-thousand-year-old cuneiform inscription—an order of the first king of Persia—as a means of freeing himself from his emotional confinement. For the remainder of his life, Aga Akbar used these cuneiform characters to fill a notebook with writings only he could understand. Years later, his son, Ishmael—a political dissident in exile—is attempting to translate the notebook . . . and in the process tells his father’s story, his own, and the story of twentieth-century Iran.  Rating: 9/10

Jan Mc’s been reading:

Sparkes, Nicholas (2006) Dear John. Hachette.   John enlisted in the Army, not knowing what else to do with his life–until he meets the girl of his dreams, Savannah. Their mutual attraction quickly grows into the kind of love that leaves Savannah waiting for John to finish his tour of duty, and John wanting to settle down with the woman who captured his heart. But 9/11 changes everything. John feels it is his duty to re-enlist. And sadly, the long separation finds Savannah falling in love with someone else. Nice light read. Rating: 7/10

Tan, Amy (1991) The Kitchen God’s Wife. Penguin.  This novel is about Pearl Louie and her mother, Winnie.  Most of Winnie’s story is drawn from the difficult life and marriage she left behind in pre-communist China. The relationship between Winnie and Pearl is strained because of the Americanized daughter and the immigrant mother have little in common. After Winnie tells her daughter about her past, Pearl reveals a secret.  Really enjoyable.  Rating: 8/10

Roz’s been reading:

Jansson, Tove (2009) The true deceiver. Random House. After the enduring international success of her Moomintroll fantasies, the Finnish author-artist Tove Jansson, now in her 60s, has begun to write adult fiction. A claustrophobic, conservative small northern village, buried in snow and censure, focuses its disapproval on Katri and her younger brother, Mats. They behave differently: live aloof, eschew gossip, don’t even name their dog. They look different, too: one tall and dark; the other with hair that is “not local”. Katri is ambitious and she takes over a house already owned and inhabited by another outsider – the remote and unworldly Anna an artist who paints loving and benign children’s book illustrations of the forest floor.  As the winter takes its toll, the two women find themselves locked in a prolonged psychological battle. A complex and intriguing story of truth and lies.  Rating: 9/10

Paisley, Janet (2007) White Rose Rebel.  Viking.  Anne Farquharson, a tempestuous and independently-minded daughter of Scotland, is elated when the Jacobites rebel in 1745, fighting to regain the Stuart throne of Scotland for Bonnie Prince Charlie, and horrified when her husband, Aeneas Macintosh, joins the English army. She raises his clan and  joins the uprising to become its legendary “Colonel Anne.” Incorporating fascinating historical detail about the military role of Scottish women during the eighteenth century.  Pleasant read. Rating 7.5/10

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