September 30, 2013

Recent Reads

99. On Sal Mal Lane
I love reading books set in places I visit, and since I am headed to Sri Lanka later this year, this book moved up my TBR pile.

I have briefly visited Sri Lanka before, but do not have a deep understanding of their civil war. This novel is set about four years after the troubles first begin. Sal Mal lane is home to families of different ethnicity, religions, class and political leanings. While they are not holding hands singing kumbaya, everyone knows their place, and for the most part get along. Like most neighborhoods, we get to meet the people through the children of the lane. There is laughter, lots of tea drinking, cricket and music, but all that changes as the forces in the outside world trickle into the lane. 

The writing is lyrical, and the narrator's voice feels like a traveling storyteller of old. There is much foreshadowing,and while I enjoyed getting to know the characters, and learning some of the history, at no time did I sink into the story and inhabit this world. Rating: 3 stars.

100. Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile
Once upon a time. Do those words not bring back such happy memories? Well, there is nothing happy about what happened to those fairy tale characters. Instead of living happily ever after, they had to flee their homelands, and now live in New York City. They might have lost their riches and titles and kingdoms, but have retained their powers. 

This first book in the YA Fables series introduces us to their new reality. And is a murder mystery to boot. A fun read with wonderful art. Rating: 3 stars.

101. Lexicon
Jacket blurb: At an exclusive school somewhere outside of Arlington, Virginia, students aren't taught history, geography, or mathematics--at least not in the usual ways. They are taught to persuade, to use language to manipulate the minds, to wield words as weapons. The very best graduate as "poets" and enter a nameless organization of unknown purpose.

Words are powerful. What if you could learn what combination of words would get anyone to obey your commands? This book has two story lines that converge, and tries to explores themes of privacy, identity, data collection, and the power of language and coercion. I loved the premise of the book, and the creativity of the author, and though it is a fast read, I felt the story lacked real depth in exploring the themes or the characters.  Rating: 2 stars.

102. The Sense of an Ending
We are all the heroes of our own stories. I read that somewhere many moons ago, and this book reminded me again of how true that is.

The book won the 2011 Man Booker Prize, among other awards, and I had high expectations going in. The novella (107 page ebook) is divided into two parts. In part one we hear the first person narration of a young man's life - the story arcs from sixth form all the way to almost the end of his life. In part two, we learn additional information that changes how we view part one. The writing is beautiful, and I highlighted lots of passages, but ultimately did not love this very male-oriented exploration of love, loss and memory. 

This is the first book I've read by the author, and found his writing lovely enough that I will read his other work. Rating: 3 stars.

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