Monday, April 5, 2010

What's In A Name Challenge Wrap-Up

My first reading challenge of 2010 is complete! I really enjoyed this challenge and had fun choosing the books too. My reviews of the six books I read:

Food - The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Set during the Great Depression, it traces the migration of an Oklahoma Dust Bowl family to California and their subsequent hardships as migrant farm workers.

It took me a little bit to get into this book, but after I did, I was really glad to have read it. Even though it is a fictional story, it was very interesting to get a glimpse of what life was like during that era of the Great Depression. I was slightly disappointed with the ending. I suppose I was expecting a bit more closure with the story, but overall, a really good book.

Body of Water - Oceans Apart by Karen Kingsbury
Eight years ago, during a stormy weekend on the shores of Hawaii, Connor Evans broke his vows. He's kept his secret, until the woman from Connor's past dies, leaving behind a young son . . . Michele never thought her family was perfect, but they were happy. Now her family is on the brink of destruction. Will a lonely child help bridge the distance between them—before it's too late?

This was the last book I read for the challenge and it was probably my favorite of the six books. The plot really makes you think about each character's situation and what you might do in their shoes. The is the first Christian novel I've read and I will definitely look for other books by the author. 

Title - Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood
Joan Foster is the bored wife of a myopic ban-the-bomber. She takes off overnight as Canada's new superpoet, pens lurid gothics on the sly, attracts a blackmailing reporter, skids cheerfully in and out of menacing plots, hair-raising traps, and passionate trysts, and lands dead and well in Terremoto, Italy.

This book takes place with the main character, Joan, retelling her past in order to explain how she is in the situation she is at the beginning of the book. I did enjoy reading about her past and her years growing up, but her marriage and details of that seemed rather glazed over to me. Again, this was another book where I found the ending lackluster. It didn't seem like there was much closure and it ended rather abruptly.

Plant - Magnolia Wednesdays by Wendy Wax
Vivien Armstrong Gray spent years working her way up the ladder to become one of the top investigative reporters in the business, and it only takes a split second to have it fall apart:. In quick succession she is not only humiliated but also jobless and pregnant at 41. With few choices left, she returns home to Georgia to wait out her pregnancy and write scathing articles ridiculing suburbia under a pseudonym for a magazine in New York. While following her sister and her niece and nephew around, observing life, Vivien finds plenty of fodder for her articles. But as time passes, Vivien realizes she’s become deeply entrenched in people’s lives, so the articles become harder to write.

I thought this book was a rather fun read. While I thought the story was quite predictable and some of the story lines were not too plausible, the characters were likable and entertaining. Overall, I did enjoy the book.

Place Name - The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker
In an upstate New York backwater, Truly, massive from birth, has a bleak existence with her depressed father and her china-doll–like sister, Serena Jane. Truly grows at an astonishing rate—her girth the result of a pituitary gland problem—and after her father dies when Truly is 12, Truly is sloughed off to the Dyersons, a hapless farming family. Haunting the margins of Truly's story is that of Tabitha Dyerson, a rumored witch whose secrets afford a breathtaking role reversal for Truly.

I really enjoyed this book too. I felt for the main character, Truly, as she was teased a lot because of her size and what she had to go through. This was another book where you could really think about what you would do given the same situation.

Music Term - The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee
Will Truesdale, a rootless, handsome Briton, arrives in the colony in 1941, and is swept up by Trudy Liang, the blithe and glamorous daughter of a Shanghai millionaire and a Portuguese beauty. They quickly become inseparable, their days spent in a whirl of parties and champagne, but when the Japanese invade, Will is interned and Trudy resorts to increasingly Faustian methods to survive. After the war, Claire Pendleton, the naive wife of a British civil servant, arrives. She begins giving piano lessons to the daughter of a rich Chinese couple, and falls in love with their wounded and inscrutable driver: Will.

I found the part of the story with Will and Trudy quite interesting, including their story of when Japan invades Hong Kong and how the different nationalities were treated. I did have some trouble getting interested in the story of Claire and Will's affair. It seemed like it just added an almost unneccessary layer with the switching back and forth between the two stories. Not a lot seemed devoted to Claire's story and I didn't really associate with her. But, I still enjoyed the book as quite a bit of it was devoted to the war era.

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