Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Book(s) I Read

I've been on string of good books.  Below of my favorite reads of late: 

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (2011)
Find it in the catalog!
This is a cute book about three semi-dysfunctional sisters who return home to a small Ohio college town care for their mother who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Their father was a Shakespearean scholar, so each of the girls have a Bard-inspired name.  They are all also running from something.  The eldest Rose (Rosalind) is happily engaged, but is concerned as her fiance isn't as tied to staying in Ohio as she is and he seems to have his heart set on working for Oxford University.  She has long been the family caretaker and is worried the rest of them will be unable to survive on their own.  Bean (Bianca) is the middle child who leaves New York City in debt, after being fired for skimming off the payroll at her law firm.  The youngest, Cordy (Cordelia) is the overgrown baby of the family who had been living a hippy nomadic existence (partly funded by her parents) until she discovered she is pregnant.  The Weird Sisters is definitely a light, fun read with a fair amount of literary allusions, so it's a guilt-free pleasure! 

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (2012)
 Find it in the catalog!
This book is about two teenagers with cancer who fall in love.  Hazel Lancaster is a 16-year-old girl who has been diagnosed with terminal thyroid cancer, but her life has been lengthened indefinitely by a "miracle drug" that she started taking when she was 13.  At a cancer support group meeting she runs in the gorgeous Augustus Waters, a 17-year-old boy whose in remission but lost his leg to cancer.  The two quickly hit it off and bond over a book called "An Imperial Affliction" by a reclusive author named Peter Van Houten.

I was worried that I wouldn't really enjoy this book.  The premise sounds like it could easily be maudlin and Nicholas Sparks-y.  Thankfully, John Green managed to strike the right balance.  This book is definitely my favorite thing he's ever written.  It's funny, romantic and just a little bit heartbreaking. Highly recommend!

Vaclav and Lena by Haley Tanner (2011)
Find it in the catalog!
This is a story of two childhood friends, Vaclav and Lena (collectively Vaclena).  Both are Russian immigrants who live in Brighton Beach in Brooklyn.  Vaclav is an only child who lives with his loving parents and dreams of being the next Harry Houdini.  His lovely assistant Lena isn't so lucky.  She's an orphan who lives with her aunt and is largely neglected.  Vaclav's mom, Rasia, takes Lena under her wings, but she can't save her from her home life.  Eventually Rasia witnesses something horrifying and Lena is taken away.  Later on, Vaclav and Lena meet up again as teenagers. 

Though the subject matter is often dark, this is a delightful book.  I really like the character of Rasia and her point-of-view.  She is a tough, hardworking mother but she is also so loving and tolerant.  I listened to audiobook, which is wonderfully acted. It's hard to imagine reading this in print as the thick Russian accents were half of the fun!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Favorite Literary Romances

In honor of the most famous Hallmark holiday: Valentine's Day, I thought it would be fun to discuss favorite literary romances. This topic is kind of a can of worms because people often have strong feelings towards their favorite books and couples, while finding other romances (cough: The Notebook) a little too sappy.  Personally, I'm not a big romance reader; however, I'm a sucker for anything British and literary.  And like any girl who spends too much time with her nose in a book, I love Jane Austen.  However, for my choice of all-time favorite romance novel has to be Jane Eyre.  Jane is strong, smart heroine and Rochester is uber-dreamy, even if he has some minor personal problems like (spoiler alert!) a crazy pyromaniac wife.   Below are a couple of runner-up favorites for me.  I realize I'm leaving out a lot of usual suspects (Romeo and Juliet, Gone With The Wind, Wuthering Heights, and so on), so please feel free to post your favorite literary romances in the comments!
Find Jane Eyre in the catalog!


Sense and Sensibility: Before you curse my name- yes, I love Pride and Prejudice and Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy are awesome.  However, my favorite Austen novel is Sense and Sensibility.  Even though I know what's coming, I still get a little weepy at the end. 
Find it in the catalog!

Speaking of Austen, I'm a big fan of Persuasion as well.  Captain Wentworth is a catch, even if he's a little bit stubborn!
Find it in the catalog!

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. This book is about more than the relationship between Kath and Tommy, but I really liked the way their relationship grows and changes over time.  Ishiguro is a master at breaking your heart, so have tissues handy!
Find it in the catalog!