Sunday, October 31, 2010

What I Read This Month

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, 1962

Creepy and disturbing. A tale of two sisters facing debilitating mental illness and social isolation after the murder of the rest of their family members. Fascinating glimpse at the inner workings of such a disturbed mind.

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli, written 1513, published posthumously in 1532

One of those significant books that just doesn't seem so significant anymore. Possibly groundbreaking at the time, but hundreds of years later, many of the precepts in the books are quite familiar to us. One startling aspect I noted as I read was how casually Machiavelli talked about invading other nations and taking them over to gratify vanity and amass power. He takes for granted that lots of humans will be murdered or killed in various aspects of political life, and finds this to be completely acceptable if done in an effective pursuit of power. There may be something to the argument that this was meant as a satire. Interesting view on another time and place, and a piece of history, but not a particularly engaging or novel read.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, 2005 (published posthumously)

Good read. A few too many characters and a bit of a slow start, but definitely picks up. I don't exactly get why it's such a huge sensation. It's good, but not THAT good.

Persuasion by Jane Austen, 1818 (published posthumously)

Not one of her best known works for a reason. Starts slow and never really picks up speed. Too many characters, too little action. Charming enough, nonetheless.

The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell, 2010

I enjoyed the Sex and the City tv series, so I'm drawn to Candace Bushnell's novels, but her writing isn't as good as the shows that were built on her story concepts. A few too many characters (this seems to be the month of character overload), but a fun enough story, following Carrie Bradshaw as a high school student in 198-. The book is set in the 80's, but it's a bit of a running joke that you never quite find out exactly what year it is.

Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult, 2009

Not up to par with her usual work, Handle with Care is a bit of a re-hashing of many of the themes and stories she addressed in My Sister's Keeper (which I did enjoy) combined with some elements borrowed from Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate. Handle with Care had some timeline discrepancies and did not seem well researched on the legal and insurance issues. None of the characters was particularly likeable. As in many of her novels, Picoult tells the story in first person narrative from changing characters' points of view, which can be interesting and effective. Unfortunately, in this case, the changes happened so fast that it was dizzying. Not my favorite Jodi Picoult.

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