Friday, November 27, 2009

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler~★★★

Author: Laurie Viera Rigler
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
Release Date:
April 29th, 2008

Book Cover: "After nursing a broken engagement with Jane Austen novels and Absolut, Courtney Stone wakes up and finds herself not in her Los Angeles bedroom or even in her own body, but inside the bedchamber of a woman in Regency England. Who but an Austen addict like herself could concoct such a fantasy?
Not only is Courtney stuck in another woman's life, she is forced to pretend she actually is that woman; and despite knowing nothing about her, she manages to fool even the most astute observer. But not even her level of Austen mania has prepared Courtney for the chamber pots and filthy coaching inns of nineteenth-century England, let alone the realities of being a single woman who must fend off suffocating chaperones, condomless seducers, and marriages of convenience. This looking-glass Austen world is not without its charms, however. There are journeys to Bath and London, balls in the Assembly Rooms, and the enigmatic Mr. Edgeworth, who may not be a familiar species of philanderer after all. But when Courtney's borrowed brain serves up memories that are not her own, the ultimate identity crisis ensues. Will she ever get her real life back, and does she even want to?"

Taryn's Review: While I was at the library searching for books, I was distracted by some heavy personal issues that had been bothering me. As I looked at the many books lining the shelves, it hit me that I needed something fun to read to escape my sadness. I wanted a book where I didn't have to think too deeply; a book that could get me safely entranced in its story so I could evade my own surroundings for a bit. Among the crammed shelves, this book popped out at me and into my bag it went.

The book was just what I needed. It isn't particularly amazing. The writing itself isn't that fantastic. The book has storyline flaws. But it was fun to read. Imagine if you woke up in the setting of your own favorite books. How would I react if I woke up in a bedroom of Tara Plantation from Gone with the Wind? Would I be able to fit in if I found myself living in a shanty house in war-torn Afghanistan like in A Thousand Splendid Suns? That's the charm of the book that kept me entertained: a 20-something Los Angeles woman parading around 1813 England, laughing in her mind at the shocking difference between the two worlds. At times, Courtney made me laugh when she explained how she'd deal with each issue if she were back in the 21st century.

The book was simple and didn't develop too deeply beyond what's going on in Courtney's head. Courtney (aka Jane Mansfield) had to realize how her actions in this time period not only affected her, but her family and friends. It was very convenient that Courtney could selectively have some memories of Jane's life at hand (like embroidering and dancing), but had to wait as Jane's memory only gave her small clues at a time. Courtney had to be patient to learn about the mysterious Mr. Edgeworth. Courtney also struggled since she had no memory of Jane's friend Mary, Jane's mother and father, and more.

Overall, the book is not a classic book nor a deep, thought-provoking book. But it's fun, and it's a great escape when you need a break from the 21st century yourself!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker~★★

Author: Nicholson Baker
Title: The Anthologist
Release Date:
September 8th, 2009
Simon & Schuster
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "The Anthologist is narrated by Paul Chowder---a once-in-a-while-published kind of poet who is writing the introduction to a new anthology of poetry. He's having a hard time getting started because his career is floundering, his girlfriend Roz has recently left him, and he is thinking about the great poets throughout history who have suffered far worse and deserve to feel sorry for themselves. He has also promised to reveal many wonderful secrets and tips and tricks about poetry, and it looks like the introduction will be a little longer than he'd thought.
What unfolds is a wholly entertaining and beguiling love story about poetry: from Tennyson, Swinburne, and Yeats to the moderns (Roethke, Bogan, Merwin) to the staff of The New Yorker, what Paul reveals is astonishing and makes one realize how incredibly important poetry is to our lives. At the same time, Paul barely manages to realize all of this himself, and the result is a tenderly romantic, hilarious, and inspired novel."

Taryn's Review: I'm not a huge fan of poetry, at least not yet in my daily life ,and there were moments I really struggled through the writing. Honestly, iambic pentameters and such are of no interest to me, but they meant a lot to Paul Chowder, the narrator of the book.

Paul was someone who would drive me crazy in real life. He's someone who almost knows too much about his passion (poetry) and tended to ramble on and on and on about the subject. Although, I did feel sad for Paul when he admitted he did't have a talent for rhyme, something that he truly loved.

I wish the book would have focused more on Paul and Roz's relationship. The author of the book really didn't take us deep into the shared life between the two, When they did interact after the breakup, they acted so formal and polite with one another. It was  rather odd, but in the same sense, it could be attributed to the fact that Paul was odd, too.

I think anyone who really loves poetry or has a desire to learn more about poetry would really enjoy this book. Poetry is really the focus of the book and Paul's life was merely a backdrop against the poetry and poets who invaded his mind. I learned a little bit, but in the end, it wasn't my kind of book.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford~★★★★

Author: Jamie Ford
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Release Date:
October 6th, 2009
Ballantine Books

Book Jacket: "In the opening pages of Jamie Ford's stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belonging s of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.
The simple act takes Henry back to the 1940s, when his world was a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who was obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While "scholarshipping" at the exclusive Ranier (
it's actually Rainier throughout the book...) Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship-and innocent love-that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. After Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end and that their promise to each other will be kept.
Forty years later, Henry Lee, certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko, searches the hotel's dark, dusty basement for signs of the Okabe family's belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot even being to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice: words that might explain the actions of this nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.
Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart."

Taryn's Review: This was a great book to begin with for my jump back into reading. Jamie Ford did a really wonderful job highlighting the horror of a time that often gets little more than a blurb in history textbooks.

Henry was a character that I was able to identify with easily and connect with. Henry's father was the type of person we've all known in life; a man who was stubborn in his choices and prejudice against all people who he believed had wronged him. He wanted nothing more than to make Henry the perfect Chinese American boy.

Henry was isolated at school until Keiko entered the picture. Keiko was delightful and the reader can understand Henry's attraction to her after his initial reaction to ignore her due to her Japanese ethnicity. The friendship that developed between the two is so sweet; it is the kind of friendship you wish you had as a child and hope that your child can have with someone. The two genuinely love each other and it's just a pleasure to see Henry shed his father's beliefs and realize that Keiko was not the "evil Japanese" that many Americans had made all Japanese people out to be.

I really did enjoy the book and I loved the way that Ford chose to tell the story. The reason for my four stars is that while the story was intriguing, I wasn't able to get as emotionally involved as I would have liked with the characters as I hoped. Except for the end, however. The last line of the book was the most perfect way to end the book and it brought tears to my eyes. I don't blame the writer at all for the error in the book jacket (tsk, tsk Ballantine Books!) .

If you have a chance to pick up a book that you want to be sucked into, this is it. I didn't want to put it down!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Hiatus is Over!

Due to a hectic schedule the last two months, I wasn't able to read any books (I know, the horror!). But after some life changes and a new job, I have time again! I went to the library, got some books checked out, and plan on starting to read again tonight. Happy reading to all! I can't wait to get posting again! :)