Friday, January 30, 2009

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still Alice is a first novel by former neuroscientist Lisa Genova. Genova uses her background in brain development and functioning to insightfully and creatively craft a novel that explores the heartbreak of Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease (EOAD).
Dr. Alice Howland is a fifty-year-old professor of linguistics at Harvard University. She’s married with three grown children and has a very successful and fulfilling career. When she starts forgetting how to get home, missing classes, and overlooking deadlines she realizes that something is wrong. For months Alice tries to ignore her increasingly abnormal memory problems, but when she forgets to catch a flight to a conference she decides to see a doctor.
Eventually diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, Alice negotiates with her family and colleagues to maintain as normal a schedule and a life as she can. Genova uses each chapter to represent a month in Alice’s ordeal and this linear structure works effectively to show the reader how EOAD is a progressive disease. The characters are engaging and sympathetic and we come to feel forlorn along with Alice as she struggles with losing her career and status as a Harvard professor and forgetting her husband and children.
Still Alice is a thoughtful and simple novel that successfully portrays the nightmare of living with dementia. Genova’s skill at creating realistic characters is vital in showing that Alzheimer’s victims are not to be feared, but to be treated with love and patience.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Unshaken by Francine Rivers

This month for our genre study at work we read Christian fiction. I chose to read Francine Rivers because she didn't seem preachy and I also wanted to read a story based on the Bible. I ended up really liking this book and hope to read the entire Lineage of Grace series of which Unshaken is volume 3.
This novella centers on the story of Ruth and Naomi. Rivers really dramatizes the story and makes the characters come alive. I so admired Ruth and her courage, determination, faithfulness and devotion to Naomi. The tone of the book is serious and devout, but like I said, she is not preachy at all. The plot moves along at a crisp pace and had me turning the pages, even though I knew what happened. I so wanted to see Ruth happy that I couldn't stop reading until she was. I would recommend this if you are looking to be inspired and want to read about good and faithful people.

Friday, January 23, 2009

In the Coils of the Snake

I would like to revise an earlier opinion. I read only the first two books in the Hollow Kingdom trilogy when I wrote my last review. In the Coils of the Snake was the last book in the series and it totally redeemed it. This book captured the things I loved about By These Ten Bones. I cared about the characters. The emotions of the story drew me in and I even liked the ending. I notice that YA fantasy books are usually an interesting and thinly veiled social commentary. This book was no exception. All the books in this series were about misconceptions different cultures have about one another. It was especially effective in that one of the cultures was that of the goblins, who are actually kind, gentle, social, and honest in spite of their hideous appearance.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

I don't think I've mentioned before that I started a new book group at work that is focusing on science fiction and fantasy novels. You all know that this is not my favorite genre so it has been interesting reading one of these novels every month since August now. For January we read Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler.
Lauren Olamina lives with her family in a neighborhood enclave surrounded by walls. The outside world is dangerous and unpredictable since the US society has collapsed. There are crazy drug addicts and people who are starving and living in shacks ready to pounce on the neighborhood at any sign of weakness. Lauren is a deep-thinker who has developed a religion she calls Earthseed and that she thinks will be the cure for the ills of the world. When she is finally forced to leave the compound she starts heading north, up the coast of California with several friends and people they pick up along the way. Their lives are threatened daily, but they manage to band together and form their own community in which Lauren begins to teach them about Earthseed.
This novel was very relevant to our society today. One of the major themes of the book is the idea of preparedness and of being realistic about what can happen to society. I enjoyed reading about how Lauren and her friends dealt with the danger and anxiety of living in chaos, but it was definitely disturbing. However, I think it was instructive to be reminded about how we should prepare for the worst but have hope for the best.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

So, this time around I didn't care for this novel. It is depressing and makes you hate and despise men. I don't really like Hardy's didactic writing style either. He pounds the reader over the head with how horrible religion and God are and, though I find his theories interesting, he really overdoes it. Tess as a character is intriguing and I find myself still thinking about her plight days after I've finished the book.
The Masterpiece Classic adaptation is fantastically depressing, but wonderful in its faithfulness to the feel of the book and the acting is great.
Now I am on to Wuthering Heights.

Friday, January 9, 2009

YA Fantasy

I told Niesa I loved this book by Clare B. Dunkle called By These Ten Bones. I was so excited that I checked out all her other books, but, alas, they were not as good. I read the Hollow Kingdom Trilogy about a goblin kingdom. The books were good, but I HATED the way they ended. She starts out with a set of main characters and then by the end of the book there's like seven. So you start reading and get an interest in these certain characters and then at the end it wraps up like 5 other people's stories so the main characters ending gets a small blurb, just like the others. I was like, "What the crap!" I wanted a detailed happy ending for the people I cared about and all it tells after all the story that lead up to it is "... and then they got married. The end." Terribly frustrating and disappointing. I also read the Shamer series by Lene Kaaberbol. These were excellent books. I really enjoyed the stories and the characters. They dealt a great deal with agency and manipulation of agency, which at times was heartbreaking and horrifying, and more than once I cried while reading them out of sheer frustration for the characters. Great story with an interesting concept of the Shamer.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Happy New Year everyone! I have a feeling it will be a good year for reading. I'm really excited that the new year is beginning with new episodes of Masterpiece Classic. Tonight, Tess of the D'Urbervilles begins. I read Tess when I was a teenager and loved it. I decided to read it again before I watch it. I have about a hundred pages to go and it is so tragic and depressing, but very thought-provoking. Poor Tess.