Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Book #14: The Wednesday Letters

The Wednesday Letters The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright

My review

rating: 1 of 5 stars
I read this book in about four hours. The ease of this book is not an endorsement.

The characterization and foreshadowing in this book is about as subtle as an episode of Murder She Wrote. You know what is going to happen and what roles the characters are going to play chapters in advance. Subtle this author is not.

And the end was not satisfying. It was abrupt and unrealistic and left me with a bad taste in my mouth. The book turned into a story focused on forgiveness and morals. It was a little too syrupy for my cynical psyche.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Book #13: Those Who Save Us

Those Who Save Us Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Hmmm. I wish I could give this more like 3.5 stars.

I read this book for a book club that women of my synagogue are starting. It is our initial book. Once I realized the book was written from the perspective of Germans during the Holocaust in Weimar I was a bit confused by the choice, but continued on with an open mind. The author is a German Jew.

Overall I enjoyed the book. It is definitely a page turner and a fast read for anyone who loves to devote a few hours to reading at a time. I just never felt like I really got behind the two protagonists — a German woman who was in her early 20s during World War II and her daughter who was born during that time. No other characters are really developed. As the supporting cast comes in and out of their lives, I was left wanting to know more about them and their fates, but the author didn't answer many of my questions. When she did, it was perfunctory and without much elaboration.

By the end of the book — the climax of which I thought was a little hasty — I had decided it was a good choice for our book club, though I wish the author had the characters delve a bit more into their Jewish origins and relationships.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Book #12: The Faith Club

The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew--Three Women Search for Understanding The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew--Three Women Search for Understanding by Ranya Idliby

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I saw this book in the general religion section at Borders and immediately knew I'd like the book. Since my conversion, comparative religion seems like a natural interest to me. Not only do I love learning about the nuances with Judaism, but I love to learn about the differences in other faiths as well. The book is told through the perspectives of three very different women — a Catholic-turned-Episcopal from Kansas City, a Palestinian-born modern Muslim and a Boston-born Jewish artist.

It is easy to stereotype people because of their faith. I find myself doing it in my daily life. It's something we all do whether we want to cop to it or not. I loved that this book featured three REAL women who were willing to talk about their stereotypes of each others' faiths and break down so many walls in the process.

My only beef with this book was the Jewish author. I think Priscilla is like a lot of Jewish women — at least of the ones I know. She culturally identifies herself as a Jew, but when it comes to the issue of theology she is unsure. She even goes further to question her ties to Israel itself. While I think these are common traits for the average Jewish woman (and I'm glad to see it represented in some way), I did not like that out of the three women she was clearly the weakest in her faith. Throughout the book she seemed to assimilate the most — going so far as to call Jesus "her friend" and called herself "born again."

Now, I do think it's intriguing that a Christian woman and a Muslim woman were able to bring a Jewish woman closer to G-d. But I worry that the book paints Jews as people of rote traditions and lacking emotional connections to their religion.

Of course, the idea of this book is to break down stereotypes, so maybe I'm not giving the average reader enough credit. I'd love for more people to read this book and see what they think.

My favorite line of the book is actually a quote from Gandhi: "A rose does not need to preach. It simply spreads its fragrance."

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Book #11: Beloved

Beloved Beloved by Toni Morrison

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really wanted to love this book, but I can't say I got there.

It wasn't what the book was lacking, I believe, that kept me from loving this book but what I was lacking. This is a kind of book so rich with symbolism, metaphor and allegory that it requires several minds (or at least one more adept than mine) to permeate its layers. It's the kind of book that should be read with a literature teacher close at hand — or at the VERY least a friend who will bounce around crazy ideas about double meanings.

This is my second Toni Morrison novel. I read my first, Song of Solomon, in my AP English class at Washburn Rural. I needed that kind of dialogue to really enjoy this book. The minute I finished the book I started frantically searching for any articles I could find on the book's symbolism and the connotations of Morrison's word choice. But perhaps I'm just a little over analytical and can't enjoy a book for what it is on its surface — a good story.

I did however enjoy reading the book, and once my mind got used to Morrison's cadence I enjoyed the way the prose strung from image to image.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Book 10: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really liked the book and I think anyone who is interested in the Holocaust should carve out a few hours of their time and digest this book in one big gulp.

My mother-in-law had mentioned this book to me right around the time the movie came out. It wasn't really on my radar at first, but when I returned from Israel I really wanted to dive deeper through books. We went to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem so I really wanted to learn more about the Holocaust. I have read Anne Frank and Night by Elie Wiesel, but I hadn't read any other narrative accounts.

While this is obviously fiction, but the fact that it was told from a young German boy's perspective was interesting. The Book Thief is also told from that perspective, but the protagonist in that story is from a family of sympathizers. Bruno's father is actually in charge of Auschwitz and he lives just outside the camp's tall fence.

It's hard to say I enjoyed this book because it was so tragic, but it truly was a fulfilling read. You have to be able to suspend your judgment a bit as you read this book. I also found the author's notes and the interview with the author in the back of my edition worth the read. He explains his reasoning behind a lot of the story.

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

For all that is holy...

Remember this?

That star is still there. What is the worst thing that could happen if I take it down for them and put it somewhere for safekeeping?