Quickies: Claire of the Sea Light & Asunder

Book cover: Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge DanticatClaire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat

Publisher/Year: Knopf, 2013
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Robin Miles
Length: 7 hrs, 3 minutes
Source: Library

What it is: Claire Limyé Lanmé (Claire of the Sea Light) Faustin is a little girl growing up in the fictional fishing village of Ville Rose, Haiti. Her mother died in childbirth, and on Claire’s seventh birthday, her father, Nozias, decides to give her to a local shopkeeper so that she can have a better life. The book all takes place on this one day that the shopkeeper comes for her, though it dips into the past as it highlights the lives of several of the villagers.

Why I listened to it: I just wanted to (Danticat has long been on my to-read list), and the cover called out to me. It’s pretty.

What I thought: This is not your traditional novel; the book is more like a series of related vignettes that have been strung together. The book begins and ends with Claire, but the chapters in between are told from the perspective of people only tangentially linked to Claire’s life. It was a little confusing at first, especially since I was listening on audiobook. I sometimes wasn’t sure if the book had skipped a few chapters; that’s how different the plot could be from one moment to the next. At first, I went, “Hey, what happened to Claire?” Danticat gets you emotionally attached to her, only to set her aside for most of the book in order to focus on a handful of other characters’ lives. But it works. In the end, you only have glimpses of lot of different characters, but you feel for all of them. It’s a slim novel that leaves you wanting more, and yet it’s perfect the way it is.

Book cover: Asunder by Chloe AridjisAsunder by Chloe Aridjis

Publisher/Year: Mariner Books, 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 208
Source: Publisher

What it is: Marie works as a guard at the National Gallery in London. She enjoys the silent atmosphere and the responsibility of watching over the artwork. Doing so keeps up part of her great-grandfather’s legacy: he was the guard on duty when a suffragette sliced apart a famous painting at the beginning of World War I; he fell and wasn’t able to stop her. But after nine years of working at the National Gallery, Marie is also stuck in a rut.

Why I read it: I enjoyed Aridjis’s debut novel, Book of Clouds.

What I thought: Like her first book, Asunder is oftentimes more atmosphere than plot. Large chunks go by where not much happens other than Marie’s meandering observations of the world. She does artwork with eggshells (symbolism). She observes people walking by (symbolism), especially at the museum. A class comes in, and the professor process to teach her students about craquelure, the natural and unavoidable cracking of paint on a canvas as time goes by (this was actually one of my favorite passages in the book). Anyway, cracks on a canvas. More symbolism. Obviously, something is happening with Marie. But, in keeping with the subdued and introspective nature of Aridjis’s writing, there are no mind-blowing, thrilling plot twists. If you need action in your books, this definitely isn’t the book for you. Personally, I find Aridjis’s works to be vaguely weird, philosophical, and slow. I liked it.

A Girl Walks into a Wedding

Book cover: A Girl Walks into a Wedding by Helena S. PaigeA GIrl Walks into a Wedding is the second book by Helena S. Paige, the pseudonym of co-authors Helen Moffett, Sarah Lotz, and Paige Nick. I was really curious about it because of its format, something I’d seen before in erotica ebooks and in children’s books (ha!) but never in print books aimed at adults: you’re given multiple scenarios and periodically get to decide your own fate.

The plot, if you can call it that, is pretty straightforward: your best friend is about to get married and you’re her bridesmaid. You choose things like whether your dress is tasteful or hideous, and whether or not to take the new guy you’re dating to the wedding or to go solo. From there it branches out even more: Do you want to have a one night stand? Is the guy you’ve chosen a total bore? Do you catch your best friend doing naughty things the night before the wedding? You get the idea.

As you can imagine, it’s pure fluff. I’d always wondered what this type of format would be like in print format, and now I know. It’s weird. You’re given a choice, then you’re directed to go to page__ for X scenario or to page __ for Y scenario; I think this format is better suited for ebook because tapping the link of your choice is less awkward than finding the right page and seeing a bunch of “The Ends” along the way. It also makes the book reaaaally short. The earliest point I saw “The End” was on page 97, and that included several skipped sections where you had jump to your scenario of choice.

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Only the Good Die Young

Book cover: Only the Good Die Young by K. K. HendinRemember when the New Adult genre burst onto the scene a couple of years ago and was suddenly all the rage? As I don’t read much Young Adult fiction, I never really looked into New Adult or figured out the difference. After reading K. K. Hendin’s Only the Good Die Young, the light bulb finally went off in my head and I went, “Ohhhhh, now I get it!” Aiming slightly older than typical YA, Only the Good Die Young is about Milcah Daniels, an eighteen-year-old facing stage three breast cancer, a double mastectomy, and the possibility of dying very soon.

When we meet Milcah, she’s very bitter and angry. She’s a smart girl who’s supposed to be living up her first year in college; instead, she’s living in an empty apartment in Houston going to her cancer treatments. She’s also a foster kid, so even though she’s eighteen, she qualifies for assistance from the state with certain conditions, one being that she must re-enroll in school (this time through an online program). She doesn’t see the point in doing that since she thinks her death is imminent, but until she does die, she’s decided to just go through the motions of life.

One day, Milcah sees a new tattoo parlor and decides to go in, and she meets the sexy tattoo artist named Callum Scott. The two hit it off, and though it’s obvious Callum wants more, Milcah keeps her diagnosis a secret and keeps pulling away from him every time he tries to build on their friendship. She doesn’t see the point in getting close to anyone because she’s going to die anyway and they’ll just get hurt.

Spoiler-ish alert ahead… Continue reading

Top Ten Tuesday: Books About Friendship

Top Ten Tuesday: Books About Friendship

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books About Friendship. They’re listed in alphabetical order, and all of the links lead to Goodreads.

A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead

In 1942, a group of 230 non-Jewish French women known as “31,000 Convoi” were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau for their roles in the French resistance against the Nazis and the Vichy government. By forging strong bonds of friendship and support, the women figured out ways to help each other survive.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Jess and Leslie are an unlikely pair, but the form a unique bond on the first day of school and become inseparable. In the imaginative way kids do, they create their own magical kingdom called Terabithia in the woods. Be warned: it will probably make you cry.

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea

A drug cartel takes over Nayeli’s quiet Mexican village, where all of the men have left to find work up north, so she and her friends travel the United States to bring back a “Magnificent Seven” group of strong men who will kick the cartel out. It’s part road trip, part feel-good immigration story.

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Patti Smith writes about arriving in New York in the late 60s and coming upon a chance encounter with then-unknown artist Robert Mapplethorpe. She charts their remarkable friendship from the days when they were two young, very broke artists trying to get by in New York City through the very end. It’s a book I’ve always regretted not reviewing, because it is a-maz-ing, and it won a National Book Award in 2011.

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Sunday Salon: The Countdown Begins!

Vienna. Photograph by Miroslav Petrasko

Vienna. Image by Miroslav Petrasko.

Both of my semesters are finally over! I took three classes (I’m working on my MLIS) and taught five, which is why my blog has been kind of sloooooow these past few months. I’m excited because 1) I’m exhausted; and 2) I can finally focus my full attention on planning some last minute details. Because…


Quite possibly the best thing about being bumped up from adjunct to full time this past year (besides, you know, making a living wage) is that I’ve been finally able to save money to travel, something I constantly daydream about. There were three must-sees on my list: Reykjavik, Krakow, and Paris. Everything else, I just kind of rolled with according to proximity and cheap transportation (which is fine by me because basically the entire world is on my bucket list). What I’m left with is this insane, ambitious itinerary that’ll have me moving around every few days. And of course, true to nerd form, I’m working on a reading list to go along with my upcoming travels:

  1. Iceland (Sjon)
  2. Norway (Sigrid Undset)
  3. Denmark (Isak Dinesen?)
  4. Sweden (Linda Olsson)
  5. Finland (Arto Paasilinna)
  6. Poland (Tadeusz Borowski, Kazimirz Brandys, Czeslaw Milosz)
  7. Czech Republic (Milan Kundera)
  8. Slovakia (???)
  9. Austria (Elfriede Jelinek)
  10. England (??? – so many to choose from!)
  11. France (??? – also a ton to choose from!)
  12. Italy (Stefano Benni, Curzio Malaparte, Elena Ferrante)

I’m sure there are authors that are criminally absent from my list here, so if you have any recommendations, send them my way (I’m particularly stumped on Slovakia).

Anyone else traveling this summer?