Saturday, January 24, 2009

Book Reviews: White Tiger/Consider the Butterfly

My business partner got me this little gem for Christmas and I've really enjoyed it, and will enjoy it for years to come. It's the kind of book you could pick up and just read one little entry, but for this first reading, I read it all the way through. Basically, the author is talking about the power of coincidence, how if you look at the synchronicity of coincidence, you might find grace. She even suggests that you can cultivate "meaningful coincidence" in your life by looking for it in your everyday world. The author is a Mormon, which isn't really a factor in reading the book, except that I happen to know tons of Mormons and this author seems the most open and accepting Mormon I know!! (You'll know why when you read about her life story!) Still, I really loved the openness and gentleness that is obviously part of her life and will look forward to looking for grace in small places now.

White Tiger has gotten great reviews, and I believe won the Man Booker award last year. I picked it up at our local bookstore after I heard the owner (my friend) say they were struggling. I started feeling guilty for all those "Amazon Kindle" downloads and bought the actual book! I really loved it. I've read a lot of books about India, or with India as a "subject", but never one like this. Even the gritty "Shantaram" had a totally different flavor. This is India from the mind of the servant, the forgotten, the despised caste. It's a totally different look. And although the main character isn't exactly faultless (okay, he's almost downright despicable), neither are the upper class anything to write home about. This is India, down dirty and real. It's very engaging - and an easy read, even though it took me weeks to read. That's more about my life than it is about the book!! And THAT is a whole other blog.

A word about "Oscar Wao": As you may notice in my sidebar, I gave up on this book. I usually give books to 50 pages to hook me in. Oscar Wao won the Pulitzer Prize for crying out loud, so I figure it has to be good right?? I gave it to 100 pages. I wanted to like it, I really did. But at 100 pages, I could care less about what happens to these characters. This book commits the one crime I can't stand. I love to read about other cultures, but I hate it when the author assumes that I know all about it, the slang, the nuances. What results is a book that I can't even follow. Oh, and the lengthy footnotes don't help either. I'm glad Junot Diaz got critical acclaim, and the book probably deserves it. Call it reader ignorance.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Book Review: Etta by Gerald Kolpan

I received this book from Library Thing's Early Reviewers program. It is due to be released in March. I was dubious - to say the least - not being a fan of historical fiction or the Wild West. But I feel an obligation to read these early releases quickly and get a review out. And so I began.

Boy, was I surprised! Apparently Gerald Kolpan became fascinated with Etta Place some years ago when he realized that the notorious companion of The Sundance Kid was a vast mystery. Almost nothing is known about her. So Kolpan has proceeded, in this book, to craft a fictional account of what her life might have been like - where she came from, how she happened to mix up with Butch Cassidy's gang, and her romance and life with the Sundance Kid. The result is a book you can't put down. This story is imagined so well that it could actually be her life - in fact, I wish it was a true story. This book is about as close to perfection as it gets for me. A little bit of suspense and intrigue, a good solid love story (without too much sappy-ness), and a deep character study.

In the past, books where the author tries to intersperse news articles or journal entries has seemed jarring to me. In this book, Mr. Kolpan does a great job of weaving them into the story. In fact, I have no criticisms of this book at all. Read it. You'll love it, even if you think the Wild West holds no interest for you. This is a story about a woman's life, and an fascinating one at that. But plan wisely, you'll be reading late into the night!