A view of some of the fabric I bought in Malawi, along with a collection of book reviews

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski — three out of five bananas

This is a book I have given as a gift several times, after having read the reviews. However, when I got around to reading it myself, it fell flat. Perhaps my expectations were too high? I remember when this novel was published, it was revered. So many raved about the author’s first novel. In truth, it is an interesting story. I’ve never read about a mute character before. However, it wasn’t anywhere near as good as the other fiction I’ve recently devoured.

Room by Emma Donoghue — five out of five bananas

This story is told from the perspective of a five year old boy — Jack. Jack’s mother gave birth to him in “room,” where she’s been kept captive for years. Jack is the product of her abuse. Jack’s perspective is one so unique and tender. His mother has gone to may creative lengths to keep his childhood — as limited as it is — special and important. I truly loved this story.


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot — five out of five bananas

This nonfiction tale of the HeLa cells, taken without knowledge from an African American woman in the 1950s who was being treated for cervical cancer, is one all public and social workers in the United States should read. It shows how abuse of power and policy left a community distrustful of medicine for decades. It also shows how racism and classism are ever evolving and makes the reader question their own belief structures. It is one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read and my admiration is sincere for Rebecca Skloot — who spent much of her life to date researching and writing this tale. A very, very important and smart read.

Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon — two out of five bananas

Blah. Blah blah blah blah BLAH. I know as an author I cried when I read reviews like this and promised I wouldn’t ever write them again. I lied. Knowing this book on horse racing won the National Book Prize for 2010 makes me think my taste in novels is horrible because I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone. In fact, this is the first book in recent history I immediately sold back to the store. Gordon doesn’t use quotation marks, which is so distracting from the story, I didn’t finish it. There are portions where the author’s poetic voice shines — and they are wonderful. But they are too few.The characters’ voices are varied, confusing and the nonsensical punctuation makes this story unreadable.

So much for National Book Prize judges.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson — three out of five bananas

I liked it. This mystery took about 150 pages to grab me, but then I couldn’t put it down. Additionally, the last 100 pages could have been summarized in about 20. That said, I can’t wait to see the films and read the next two books in the trilogy. I like the complexity of the characters, who are both admirable and incredibly flawed. I like the foreign setting. I like the fast paced nature of the story. I liked learning so much about Nordic culture.

Simply put, it is fun book candy.

Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan — four out of five bananas

If it hadn’t been for the last chapter of this book, I would have called it one of my top ten reads in the last year. The characters are fascinating. The writing is lyrical, sorrowful, beautiful and simply perfect in places. I have never read a book constructed in this fashion and I applaud Egan’s courage and brilliance for gracefully mastering new literary waters.

The only bummer was the last chapter. So — someone else read this one quickly and let me know what you think. It is my book club selection for February and I can’t wait another 4 weeks to talk about it.

I’m currently enjoying A Supremely Bad Idea and it is hilarious, as of page 15.


Reading more this year? Yes we can.