Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

The time: the present. The place: a Balkan country ravaged by years of conflict. Natalia, a young doctor, is on a mission of mercy to an orphanage when she receives word of her beloved grandfather’s death far from their home under circumstances shrouded in confusion.

Remembering childhood stories her grandfather once told her, Natalia becomes convinced that he spent his last days searching for "the deathless man," a vagabond who claimed to be immortal. As Natalia struggles to understand why her grandfather, a deeply rational man, would go on such a far fetched journey, she stumbles across a clue that leads her to the extraordinary story of the tiger’s wife.

I'm pretty sure this entire book went over my head. It is beautifully written, but I felt through the whole thing, especially at the end, that I was missing something the author was trying to convey. It was interesting, but the whole thing about the tiger's wife was completely beyond me. I mean, I understood it, but I think there was a deeper meaning that I didn't pick up on.

2 stars

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Iron House by John Hart

An old man is dying.

When the old man is dead they will come for him.

And they will come for her, to make him hurt.


At the Iron Mountain Home for Boys, there was nothing but time. Time to burn and time to kill, time for two young orphans to learn that life isn’t won without a fight. Julian survives only because his older brother, Michael, is fearless and fiercely protective. When tensions boil over and a boy is brutally killed, there is only one sacrifice left for Michael to make: He flees the orphanage and takes the blame with him.


For two decades, Michael has been an enforcer in New York’s world of organized crime, a prince of the streets so widely feared he rarely has to kill anymore. But the life he’s fought to build unravels when he meets Elena, a beautiful innocent who teaches him the meaning and power of love. He wants a fresh start with her, the chance to start a family like the one he and Julian never had. But someone else is holding the strings. And escape is not that easy. . . .


The mob boss who gave Michael his blessing to begin anew is dying, and his son is intent on making Michael pay for his betrayal. Determined to protect the ones he loves, Michael spirits Elena—who knows nothing of his past crimes, or the peril he’s laid at her door— back to North Carolina, to the place he was born and the brother he lost so long ago. There, he will encounter a whole new level of danger, a thicket of deceit and violence that leads inexorably to the one place he’s been running from his whole life: Iron House.

Awesome, awesome book! Family secrets, hit men, the mob, enforcers, this has it all. There is only one thing keeping me from giving this book 5 stars: Elena. She annoyed the hell out of me. Possible minor spoiler coming could she even think to ask Michael to chose between his brother and her? I know she was pregnant but come on! And she was such a whiner! She found out who Michael really was, decided to go with him, and then had a fit every time he did something illegal. Make up your mind. I wish she would have left early on in the book to go to Spain because her little tantrums and drama made me freaking insane. Otherwise, this book is Hart's best by far in my opinion. It rocked!

4 stars

Monday, August 15, 2011

Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen

Juana of Castile, third child of the Spanish monarchs Isabel and Fernando, grows up with no hope of inheriting her parents' crowns, but as a princess knows her duty: to further her family's ambitions through marriage. Yet stories of courtly love, and of her parents' own legendary romance, surround her. When she weds the Duke of Burgundy, a young man so beautiful that he is known as Philippe the Handsome, she dares to hope that she might have both love and crowns. He is caring, charming, and attracted to her-seemingly a perfect husband. But what begins like a fairy tale ends quite differently. When Queen Isabel dies, the crowns of Spain unexpectedly pass down to Juana, leaving her husband and her father hungering for the throne. Rumors fly that the young Queen has gone mad, driven insane by possessiveness. Who is to be believed? The King, beloved by his subjects? Or the Queen, unseen and unknown by her people?

First of all, I did not write that summary, I was afraid if I did I would give something away. Reading books like this always make me realize that if I had been born in this time period I would have most likely been beheaded very soon because I would not have been able to hold my tongue. I felt so sorry for Juana, and oh how I hated Phillipe. As soon as his name turned up on a page, I could feel my blood pressure rise a little. Another great historical fiction read by someone who is becoming one of my favorite historical fiction authors. Can't wait to read more by this author.

4 stars

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse. As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life–sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty.

I am not too sure how I feel about this book. Some of the stories made absolutely no sense to me or had no resolution or little details and I kept waiting for the characters to pop up again but they never did. I liked Olive a lot; she reminded me of myself. It also made me take a step back and look at the way I treat my parents now that I am older. That is the part that resonated with me the most. The way we behave and act toward our parents may seem like no big deal to us and we see nothing wrong with it, but it affects them deeply, and hurts them. I kind of felt like crap when I finished reading it, but it was interesting enough to hold my attention on vacation which is a feat.

3 stars