I've had some ambivalence about continuing this book blog. In the past year, I've managed to offend one author to the point that she left a pointed comment, and I've managed to please one author to the point that she sent me an advance copy of her next book. So I'm one for one on the Offense Scale.
All of which proves that our words carry weight, no matter how insignificant it seems to us as we write. I started this blog mainly to force myself to keep a more useful record of my reading achievements than just the title and author. I've often wished I had a record of every book I've ever read....yes, starting way back in childhood. Or at least beginning at age 12, when I hit the adult shelves with a vengeance. Why do I need this list? What purpose would it serve? Beats me, but I still wish I had it. I have been list-keeping for a number of years now, and when I look back at some titles, I haven't a clue what they were about. I know instantly whether I loved or liked or felt so-so about a title, but I couldn't tell you why.
With access to instant book plots a la Amazon.com, the world hardly needs another annotated bibliography of My Favorite Books, or whatever. But something in me needs to keep records, so here I am to continue adding a dash of salt to my own book stew. I will continue to say whatever I think, and if some author is out there googling him or herself to see what the little people are saying, so be it.
Now on with the show! I've knocked off four books in the early times of 2006, with mixed results. Two were excellent, two left me cold.
The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason was a book I struggled to finish, only because it was a book club selection and I feel compelled to cooperate in a book club. The story centers around a naive English piano tuner who becomes a pawn in England's politics in the 1880's. He travels to Burma at the request of the military to tune a rare piano in the jungle. Most of the book club members raved about the story, which helped me appreciate it more once I finally slogged my through. The best part of the book for me was the discussion, so I guess I didn't completely waste my time.
The Drowning Tree by Carol Goodman was another book club pick, and none of us were very impressed. Do you like modern gothic mysteries with lots of mythological references and lots of repetition and characters that go nowhere? 'Nuff said.
Run, don't walk, to your library, bookstore, or Paypal account, and get a copy of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See. This book had me from page one, and the author does an excellent job of developing the dynamics of family and friendship in 19th century China. She also deals with the dynamics of foot-binding...in spellbinding detail. If Memoirs of a Geisha attracted you at all, Snow Flower has far more to offer. Hollywood, take note.
Philippa Gregory's The Constant Princess is her newest addition to her repertoire of historical fiction dealing with kings and queens of England. She never disappoints me...I hang on her interpretations of court intrigues and Machiavellian manuverings. I read Forever Amber in my formative years, and Gregory takes me right back there. I guess if I were a serious student of history I would have to turn up my nose at Gregory. She is a novelist first, and if she takes liberties with her interpretations, I don't care. I spend quality enthralled time in the world she re-creates and I love it. That's all I really require of any author....transport me into another world, another time, another group of people. Entertain me. Make me think. Gregory does this.