Tag Archives: fiction

Tokyo Fiancee by Amelie Nothomb

Tokyo Fiancee by Amelie Nothomb: I have no idea how much of this “highly autobiographical” work is supposed to be true, so I’m going to treat it like a novel. Amelie is a Belgian woman living in Japan in the early 1980s. Rinri, a Japanese man close to her age, comes to her for French lessons, and soon they begin dating. It’s clear from the beginning that while Amelie likes Rinri very much, she harbors no romantic feelings for him. His personality is actually not very well defined; he seems to exist mostly in reaction to her antics. The whole situation is rather awkward and their inevitable split is heartbreaking. I did enjoy Amelie’s somewhat spiritual adventures in mountain climbing, and her experiences with Japanese culture were charmingly familiar, but as a romance I found it largely disappointing. I don’t like finishing a book disliking the main character, but up until that point it was kind of nice.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Conspiracy Kid by E.P. Rose

The Conspiracy Kid by E.P. Rose: This is not a book that is easily summed up in a sentence or two. There’s a billionaire and a couple of Yankophile British kids who open a diner and some mental patients and a golfer and a poet and an artist or two and Hurricane Katrina and you get the idea. Despite the vast number of characters, the story is reasonably easy to follow as long as you keep a “just go with it” mindset and avoid feeling too incredulous. Parts are quite clever and parts are thoroughly bizarre, but all in all it’s kind of a fun change of pace. Most of the time these sorts of books just sort of end without a whole lot happening, but I was pleased to see a neatly tied-together ending that felt neither forced nor unsatisfying. If you’re looking for litfic that’s just a little different, give this a try.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol

The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol: When Josephine’s husband leaves her to go start a crocodile farm in Kenya with his mistress, she finds herself scrabbling to make ends meet. Her beautiful sister Iris lies about writing a book, and rather than admitting her fib, she convinces Josephine to write a 12th century romance under Iris’s name. (Josephine is a historian who specializes in that time period.) In the meantime, there’s some drama between Josephine’s stepfather and his mistress, and Josephine’s best friend and her lover, and in the end I noticed that absolutely no one finds love within their own marriage. Despite my prudishness, though, I did enjoy this bit of light fiction. It’s a good beach read, and I felt like I even learned a little something about 12th century France.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

BUtterfield 8 by John O’Hara

BUtterfield 8 by John O’Hara: Wow, is this book ever tedious. The back cover blurb claims that the first scene unleashes a chain of events that can only result in tragedy, so I kept reading to the end in the hope that this meant something would actually happen, but it never really did. I mean, sure, I suppose the death of a character could be considered tragic, but only if the reader had any emotional investment in the life of that character. Which I did not.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Night Film by Marisha Pessl: When the daughter of famously reclusive director Stanislas Cordova turns up dead of an apparent suicide, journalist Scott McGrath finds himself determined to learn the truth. On the way he picks up two unlikely companions, meets a host of strange folks, encounters black magic and hallucinations, and uncovers a large number of strange coincidences. The mystery and suspense are thick the whole way through. Is Ashley Cordova leading him somewhere from beyond the grave? Is Stanislas Cordova a bigger monster than anything that appeared in his horror films? What happened to the actors he worked with? Why is there such a wall of secrecy around the man? Pessl’s gift is writing with such realism that you want to check IMdb.com for Cordova’s name just to reassure yourself that he doesn’t really exist, that this really is fiction. The plot is masterly woven, and though certain parts of the resolution are left to the reader to decide, this feels deliberate rather than lazy. I’ve complained in the past about “open-ended” books that feel like the last chapter was somehow left off, but the ending here is both open and satisfying. I personally prefer the more fantastic explanation offered, but either way this is the sort of story you want all your friends to read so you can share your theories. Truly un-put-downable. I hope Pessl is already working on her next novel.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak: Underachieving taxi driver Ed Kennedy lives a pretty uninteresting life until one day he receives a playing card with three addresses on it. After visiting these addresses, he learns that he must can change these people’s lives for the better. As the weeks go by, he receives more cards with more situations to put right. The individual situations themselves are wonderful to read, and I liked and sympathized with Ed. However, the ending left me a bit sour. I was unimpressed with how the mysterious card-leaver was revealed. Still, the book was quite good up to that point, so it’s certainly possible that other folks would really like the somewhat unconventional resolution.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend: Adrian has declared himself to be a misunderstood intellectual who has fallen in love with his classmate, Pandora. He is pretentious and irritable and a bit slow on the uptake – in other words, a pretty typical teenager. I found much of this book quite funny, but mostly because I was reading from an adult’s point of view. I have no idea how many of the jokes I would have understood had I been reading this at Adrian’s age (which is generally the audience to which the book is marketed). I also don’t see many adolescents reading this because it’s so very dated: for example, there are several references to Margaret Thatcher and a big party to celebrate the marriage of Charles and Diana. That said, I could see it appealing to us adults familiar with British culture from that time period. I don’t know that I’ll seek out any other Adrian Mole books in the future, but this was a quick and amusing read.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse

The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse: Freddie is still grieving the loss of his brother in the Great War, and on the advice of his doctors he is touring around France to help his nerves. One snowy night he finds himself in the village of Nulle, suffering concussion and fever after a car accident. There he meets a mysterious woman named Fabrissa, talks the night through, and then loses track of her. Alas, the plot is pretty thin and I figured out the “twist” about eight years before Freddie did (or, I believe, the reader was meant to), largely because it’s been done so many, many times before. It was a decent tale despite its generic plot, and the description of the French Pyrenees was lovely, but it really should have been a short story.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco, translated by Geoffrey Brock (unabridged audiobook read by George Guidall; 15 hrs on 13 discs): 60-year-old Yambo, an antiquarian book dealer, wakes up in a hospital with amnesia. He remembers everything he’s ever read, everyday things like how to shave, and a certain amount of history, but all his personal life experiences are gone. He doesn’t know who anyone is, or how anything tastes or feels, or any other memory with an emotional component. The first portion is largely a string of literary references that build on each other through word association. Eventually he returns to his childhood home to read old schoolbooks and comics in order to rediscover his own identity. His memory returns very gradually, so you have to be in it for the journey, not anticipating some Big Change at any point. To be honest, I was bored for a lot of this book. I didn’t understand a lot of the references, especially later when most of them were to WWII-era Italian propaganda. The amnesia concept was fresh – rediscovering tastes and smells, for example – and the actual memories turned out to be quite interesting, but for the most part I felt like I was slogging through a bunch of navel-gazing for which I had no context. I also never figured out what caused him to get the amnesia to begin with, but that may have been revealed at a time when I’d glazed over. I am quite certain many people would quite enjoy this book, but I appear to not be one of them.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

It’s Nothing Personal by Kate O’Reilley

It’s Nothing Personal by Kate O’Reilley: Jenna Reiner is an anesthesiologist whose life is turned upside-down when one of her patients contracts Hepatitis C from a contaminated syringe, switched out by an infected scrub nurse stealing drugs. One of the victims decides go sue not only the scrub nurse, but the hospital and Jenna herself; this is mainly the story of her experience being sued. I found the legal portions of the story interesting, but Jenna herself was a little bit tiresome, what with everybody always talking about what a saint she is, and how different she is from those awful other doctors. The ending was at once disappointing and realistic. All the same, it was a change from the usual, since here we have a medical malpractice suit from the doctor’s point of view, with the reminder that everyone involved is a well-meaning human being (except maybe the lawyers).

A bit of background I knew going into this: the author of this book went through a very similar situation. I don’t know that all the characters acted quite as she portrayed them, but it was an informative survey of the process and, I imagine, a fairly cleansing act for the author herself. I haven’t decided if I’m glad I knew that this story was semiautobiographical beforehand or if it would have been better to find out afterward, but it certainly didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story. It just added a few extra “I wonder if this is really how it happened” questions from time to time. Certainly a different kind of medical drama.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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