Dreamers of the Day: I think Mary Doria Russell is one of the best authors around. Usually, I like an author for a book or two, but then it becomes clear that all of their books have a general style that I'm done with. That's why I'm always stumped when people ask me my favorite authors. I rarely read everything an author writes. But Mary Doria Russell has written a group of books that seem to have nothing in common. Not style, not theme -- it's amazing. You would never know these books are written by the same person...The Sparrow and Dreamers of the Day??? Incredible. This book is a fictional account of the Cairo Conference of 1921, something that has been written little about, but shaped the modern Middle East, to a large degree. Our main character is a "nobody" who falls in with the likes of Lawrence of Arabia and Winston Churchill. It's really fascinating, and despite the heavy subject matter, an easy and enjoyable read.
Sorrows of an American: This book got great reviews in Bookmarks Magazine. I'm sure the author would hate this, but I was also drawn to it because the author is married to Paul Auster -- a household like that has got to create awesome books, no? Anyway, it was a good read -- I'm not raving about it. I really enjoyed the references to psychotherapy (being a psychotherapist and all) but I don't know that the average reader would. There was something bulky about it -- I found myself skipping over whole passages of the father's journal (then regretted that at the end when I realized that the father's journal passages were actually REAL passages from the author's father's journal - the rest was fiction). The whole gist of the book is that there is a big secret the characters discover about their father after he dies -- but the secret turns out to be a big fat nothing, really...I thought it was going to be a suspenseful mystery and it wasn't. It was really more of a character study. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either.
The Samurai's Garden: A year or so ago, I saw Gail Tsukiyama at my library and put all of her books on my "to be read" list. This is a different book than the ones I've read previously, mainly because the main character was a young man, and she usually writes in women's voices. Still, as always, her books are intelligent but entertaining; informative about both Japanese and Chinese cultures and their conflicts; and just good storytelling. There's nothing here that is incredible or amazing -- her books are slow, thoughtful and nothing much happens in them - not a lot of drama. But it is enjoyable and a very good read.
The Heretic's Daughter: Someone picked this for my book club. I had never heard of it, and still haven't really heard anything of it or seen it around. I can't understand it - it was such a fantastic book!! Basically, it is the story of Martha Carrier, one of the women executed in the Salem witch trials. Apparently Martha Carrier is an ancestor of the author, so it remains to be seen how much is true fiction, and how much is a story that has been passed down through stories in her family. I've never really been much interested in the Salem witch hunts, but this book was fascinating and revealing. At one point, I was trying to sneak in a couple of minutes between seeing clients, and I was crying!! Crying in my office between seeing therapy clients!! ha. It was awful!! Anyway, the conclusion I've come to after reading this book is that we haven't changed all that much....put religion and fear together, and, well.....thankfully we have laws that prevent us from killing people we disagree with. They weren't so lucky then....Read this one!