Monday, September 12, 2011

It's Monday! What are You Reading? #34

Share what you (are, have been, are about to, hope to be) reading or reviewing this week. Sign Mr Linky at Book Journey and visit other Monday reading roundups.


I've read more in the last two weeks than I have in months. I have finished four novels in the last ten days and am well into a fifth. Among the finished are:

Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Speak by Laurie Halse Andersen
Haunting Bombay by Shilpa Agarwal

The novel I'm currently reading is Illumination by Keven Brockmeier.

I'm also reading several short story collections, and some fable/folklore collections.

Among the NF I have been giving attention to, probably getting the most is Francine Proses' Reading Like a Writer.


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Of Bees and Mist
by Erick Setiawan

This has got to be one of the best novels I've read in years.  It is so unique it is hard to pin down its genre.  It has the flavor of a fable but no fable I've ever heard was several hundred pages in length.

Raised in a sepulchral house where ghosts dwell in mirrors, Meridia grows up lonely and miserable. But at age sixteen, she has a chance at happiness when she falls in love with Daniel-a caring and naive young man. Soon they marry, and Meridia can finally escape to live with her husband's family, unaware that they harbor dark secrets of their own. There is a grave hidden in the garden, there are two sisters groomed from birth to despise each other, and there is Eva-the formidable matriarch and the wickedest mother-in-law imaginable-whose grievances swarm the air in an army of bees. As Meridia struggles to keep her life and marriage together, she discovers long-buried secrets about her own past as well as shocking truths about her new family that inexorably push her love, courage, and sanity to the brink.
 Of Bees and Mist is an engrossing fable that chronicles three generations of women under one family tree over a period of thirty years-their galvanic love and passion, their shifting alliances, their superstitions and complex domestic politics-and places them in a mythical town where spirits and spells, witchcraft and demons, and prophets and clairvoyance are an everyday reality. Erick Setiawan's astonishing debut is a richly atmospheric and tumultuous ride of hope and heartbreak that is altogether touching, truthful, and entirely memorable.


Haunting Bombay
 by Shilpa Agarwal

A haunting story about the things that haunt a home, a family, a life--the ghosts of the past, secrets, regrets, history.


HAUNTING BOMBAY is a literary ghost story set in 1960’s India that tells the tale of three generations of the wealthy Mittal family who have buried a tragic history and the ghosts of the past who rise up to haunt them.
This award-winning novel weaves together mysticism, mystery, and haunting supernatural spirits in a luminous story of power and powerlessness, voice and silence in post-colonial India.




The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
 by John Boyne
This story also has the flavor of a fable. It is written for preteens while being quite readable by adults without any sense of having to come down to a lower level. I had watched the movie based on it earlier this summer so I knew the nightmare ending from the first page and yet I was compelled by the voice of the narrator to keep turning the pages.

 Set during WWII the story follows the events in the life of a young boy whose father is commandant of one of Hitler's death camps. Having been yanked out of his life in Berlin and from his school and friends he is lonely and begins to wander the countryside following a mysterious fence taller than their three story house. One day he spots a boy his age on the other side of the fence, a boy wearing strange striped pajamas. The two boys develop a friendship over the following months. I can't say much more without giving away too much.



Speak
by Laurie Halse Andersen

Set in a modern American high school this is the story, told in first person in a disjointed journal like manner, of a girl's freshman year following a traumatic encounter with a senior boy the month before school starts.  For almost the entire school year she walks the halls of school and the days of her life in a haze speaking as minimally as possible to classmates, teachers and parents--especially when she is bullied, badmouthed,  unjustly accused, taken advantage of or misunderstood.  One teacher is able to reach her by introducing her to expressing herself via art and eventually she is able to speak up again, to stand up for herself.
The Illumination
by Kevin Brockmeier

What if your pain and your wounds were visible to all as light and theirs to you? Shimmering, shining, sparking, coruscating, the cuts, bruises, fear, tension, disease and trauma are blazoned upon the skin for all to see.

What if our pain was the most beautiful thing about us? From best-selling and award-winning author Kevin Brockmeier: a new novel of stunning artistry and imagination about the wounds we bear and the light that radiates from us all. 
At 8:17 on a Friday night, the Illumination commences. Every wound begins to shine, every bruise to glow and shimmer. And in the aftermath of a fatal car accident, a private journal of love notes, written by a husband to his wife, passes into the keeping of a hospital patient and from there through the hands of five other suffering people, touching each of them uniquely.
I love the soft blue veins on your wrist. I love your lopsided smile. I love watching TV and shelling sunflower seeds with you.
The six recipients—a data analyst, a photojournalist, a schoolchild, a missionary, a writer, and a street vendor—inhabit an acutely observed, beautifully familiar yet particularly strange universe, as only Kevin Brockmeier could imagine it: a world in which human pain is expressed as illumination, so that one’s wounds glitter, fluoresce, and blaze with light. As we follow the journey of the book from stranger to stranger, we come to understand how intricately and brilliantly they are connected, in all their human injury and experience.
Reading Like a Writer
 by Francine Prose

From the cover flap:

Long before there were creative-writing workshops and degrees, how did aspiring writers learn to write? By reading the work of their predecessors and contemporaries, says Francine Prose.
In Reading Like a Writer, Prose invites you to sit by her side and take a guided tour of the tools and the tricks of the masters. She reads the work of the very best writers—Dostoyevsky, Flaubert, Kafka, Austen, Dickens, Woolf, Chekhov—and discovers why their work has endured. She takes pleasure in the long and magnificent sentences of Philip Roth and the breathtaking paragraphs of Isaac Babel; she is deeply moved by the brilliant characterization in George Eliot's Middlemarch. She looks to John Le CarrĂ© for a lesson in how to advance plot through dialogue, to Flannery O'Connor for the cunning use of the telling detail, and to James Joyce and Katherine Mansfield for clever examples of how to employ gesture to create character. She cautions readers to slow down and pay attention to words, the raw material out of which literature is crafted.
Written with passion, humor, and wisdom, Reading Like a Writer will inspire readers to return to literature with a fresh eye and an eager heart.

1 tell me a story:

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