In the Book Basket: October ’09 Reading

I can’t say that my challenge to eat breakfast each morning has been going very good, but I have definitely made reading time a priority this month. I hope that you also are squeezing in some great time to read especially with the holiday festivities quickly approaching. Your me time is more important than ever!

At the beginning of each month, I will share with you some of the great reads that I have been working on. If you want to add me to your Goodreads friend list, you can find me listed under “momadvice.”

My dear friend and fellow bookworm, Beth, also keeps a great book blog called, “Beth’s Book-Nook Blog,” where she shares some really fantastic reviews and ideas for great reading! Be sure to check her out!

This month I dove into these great reads that I would love to share with you!

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

This is the first novel I have read by Lisa See so I can’t offer any comparison on this versus her other novels. What I can tell you is that this book takes you on a journey that is beautifully told of the time in China and in the US during the Japanese invasion of Shanghai.

Pearl & May are sisters who deal with many of the insecurities and rivalry that most sisters endure. Pearl is studious and responsible while May is beautiful and has the ability to get her way in any type of situation. Both girls are living a life of privilege and are unaware of the poor and less fortunate. The girls enjoy the good life and are able to afford their lifestyle thanks to modeling for advertisements that help afford them what their family needs.

This all takes a turn when they discover that their father is in deep debt. In order to pay off his debts, he arranges for a marriage and marries off the girls to a set of brothers residing in the United States. They are expected to make the journey to the US and fulfill their father’s debts.

Getting to the United States proves to be more challenging than either sister bargained for as the invasion of Shanghai happens at the same time they are to be heading on the boat.

To say that this journey to the United States is epic, would be a small understatement. The girls endure incredible tragedy, untold brutality, and a journey that they never dreamed they would ever endure.

The story, above all else, is about sisters. Sisters that love each other in spite of it all…and sisters that would do anything for one another.

The ending could have been brought together better, but that was the only thing missing for me. I felt as though I had been on the journey with these sisters and the ending left me wondering if a sequel could follow.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Anyone else a huge fan of The Time Traveler’s Wife? This was one of my favorite books of all time. It was so good, in fact, that my husband found me sobbing in a corner with snot dripping down my face because I was so moved to tears. Perhaps that is why I really, really wanted to love this next book by this author.

This story is about two sets of twins- Elspeth & Edie and Edie’s daughters Julie & Valentina. Elspeth passes away and bequeaths all of her estate and belongings to her nieces, Julie & Valentina. There is only one way to cash in on their inheritance though and it is to live in her old apartment for one year and their family is not allowed to enter.

The girls head to London to live in the flat and find that Elspeth is still residing there…in ghostly form. She is unable to pass into the next life and her soul is trapped in the house.

The girls get to know their neighbors like Robert, who is Elspeth’s former lover, and Martin, a man left by his wife because of his debilitating OCD. The story follows them as the girls explore London and Elspeth’s home.

Valentina begins to want to separate herself from her twin and become an individual while her sister craves the sameness that they have always had. In order to become independent, Valentina makes a decision that leads to consequences the reader will never expect.

While I enjoyed the book, it was nothing like what I had expected. I had a little difficulty following all of the different stories and characters that were woven into this story and I found the ending to have a great twist, but not one I could relate to or as believable as I would hope.

Regardless, it was a great read with a great deal of creativity and the history of London weaved in. This is definitely for someone looking for a dark read with a lot of great historical information about London.

Dismantled by Jennifer McMahon

I devoured this book in one day and could not put it down. I have never read this author before, but if this is any indication of her work, then I am completely hooked.

The book is about a group of four art students who form a group called the Compassionate Dismantlers. Their fearless leader, Suze, encourages them to commit petty crimes and vandalize with their motto being, “To understand the nature of a thing, it must be taken apart.”

The book flash forwards to ten years later and Henry & Tess, two people that were in the group, are now married and have a child together. They have been living with a secret for ten years of a prank that has gone horribly wrong and both seem haunted by the crime. It is pulling them away from their m
arriage and neither can seem to get over what has happened.

Their daughter is anti-social and has created an imaginary friend who is helping her to bring her parents together. She finds an old journal and pictures and sends a postcard to all of the former members of her parent’s group with their motto on it.

The postcard triggers a suicide and a chain of twists and turns that are as horrifying and thrilling as any good horror movie.

The book kept me up at night until the shocking conclusion that will lead you on a crazy roller coaster.

Just as a disclosure, this book had rough language in it!

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I can’t say enough about how much of a literary treasure this book is! It is rare that a book sticks with me and that I think about it long after I have put it down, but The Help is one of those books that does just that.

The book tells the story of the post-Civil Rights movement through the eyes of three different women. It is told through the eyes of Aibileen & Minny, two African American maids, and Skeeter, a young white woman.

Aibileen is a gentle soul that is intent on offering the best care that she can give to the white children that she cares for. She feels it is her duty to make them feel as special and loved because she knows many of the mothers do not give their children the love they need. Her tender spirit and soft motherly ways instantly makes you feel like she is an old friend.

Minny is a spunky character who has trouble acting as a maid because she doesn’t really like to be bossed around. She has so much spunk and humor that you can’t wait to see what kind of trouble she will get into and how endearing she truly is as you get acquainted with her own difficult home life.

Skeeter is a young woman who desperately wants to become a writer. She gets the idea to write an anonymous book with anonymous maids who could share their story and struggles as an African American woman acting as a maid and (often) being treated unfairly by their white bosses.

When these three characters come together it is pure magic!

After reading it, there were two things that I couldn’t believe:

1) The author was a white woman. To document the African American struggles of the post- Civil Rights movement was so authentically documented and the voice so “true” that I found it surprising and a tribute to a skilled author to capture that voice. It never felt false and the prose was simply beautiful to read.

2) That this was Kathryn Stockett’s first book. The skill of the writing in three different voices and the way she captured that era was something that you don’t normally see out of a first time novelist.

What can I say about this book? It is one that made me laugh out loud, it made me cry tears for the struggles and unkindness that so many had to endure, and I became so attached to the characters that it will be hard to let them go. I wish that the story would go on and that a sequel could tell what happened to these three women as they began the new adventures that each of these women will go on.

If you read anything this year, let it be this book!

What was in your book basket this past month? Any book recommendations you would like to share?

Published November 03, 2009 by:

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of You can read all about her here.

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