Book Review: The Raising

The Raising

Laura Kasischke

Harper Perennial

496 pages

Nicole Werner seems to have it all.  She is a blond, virginal sorority girl and she’s living it up during her freshman year at a midwestern honors college.  The tragedy strikes.  She is killed one night when her boyfriend crashes his car near campus.  He walks away unscathed but remembers nothing of the accident.

Right from the start there are questions related to her death.  Nothing is as it seems.  Shelly, a middle aged woman who works on campus witnesses the accident and knows that when she left the scene, after authorities arrived, Nicole was alive.  Yet immediately following the accident, local news sources claim that the passer by who witnessed the accident left shortly thereafter without properly instructing authorities to the scene.  Hours later, when the crash was subsequently discovered, Nicole was lying dead in a pool of blood.

The Raising went back and forth between multiple narrators. One narrator, and probably the one I enjoyed most, was Mira, a professor on campus who taught a freshman seminar entitled Death, Dying and the Undead (which I would have taken in a hot second!).  Mira is involved in anything related to death, including folklore, so she is immediately interested in Nicole’s demise, especially when some of the guys on campus start claiming Nicole isn’t dead . . .

There was so much going on with this book that I don’t know where to start with my review.  I recently started taking notes as I am reading, which has proven to be helpful, although in this case I really can’t fathom how I could turn my notes into a cohesive review.  I will say that I was most interested in the blurb on the back cover, which compared The Raising to The Secret History. I would say, now that I have finished the book, that the comparison is accurate, however The Raising wasn’t quite of the caliber as its predecessor. That isn’t meant to be a negative, as Donna Tartt left some huge shoes to fill!

The Raising was a fast paced mystery that kept me wondering until the very end.

Other Reviews:

Caribou’s Mom

Jenn’s Bookshelves

Book Addiction

Book Chatter

Wordsmithonia

The House of the Seven Tails

I received a copy of this book as a gift.

TLC Book Tours: A Train in Winter

A Train in Winter

Caroline Moorhead

Harper

384 pages

As readers, we are inundated with books on WWII.  I, for one, am pretty burnt out.  It’s gotten to the point that I rarely choose to pick up books on this particular subject matter, so it is surprising that I chose to read this one! It just felt like it was a different aspect of the war that I maybe wasn’t familiar with.

230 women were transported to Auschwitz during the war, the majority of them being part of the French resistance.  They had no idea that they were being sent to an extermination camp, but they learned fairly quickly that they would have to work extremely hard to survive.

I suppose I should back up a bit, because I am getting ahead of myself.  A Train in Winter is broken up into two parts, part I consisting of an overview of the women and their upbringing as well as their activities during the war.  Given that there were so many women, Moorehead obviously had to pick and choose which women she would discuss, however she cast her net pretty wide, so there was quite a bit for her to cover.

Part II was more focused on the time these women spent in Auschwitz and various other concentration camps.  This portion of the book had me a lot more interested and I was fascinated and appalled by the descriptions of daily living; I never imagined that it would be pleasant to live in a concentration camp but I could not even speculate that there would be so many atrocities. The women were forced to stand at roll call for hours each morning and evening, standing in the snow and freezing mud with barely any clothes on.  They lived among fleas and lice, in the most unsanitary conditions imaginable.  Women died daily, whether by being gassed or finally succumbing to the harsh conditions or various diseases going around.  The French women, however, seemed to be a little more resilient than the women of other nationalities imprisoned with them.  They were determined to stick up for one another and protect one another despite all the adversity they faced, and miraculously, quite a few of them survived.

I had one problem with this book, and it was a big one.  The way Moorhead chose to write A Train in Winter was a bit problematic for me.  The story and the circumstances of the women was so compelling, but I could not follow the threads of so many women.  Dozens and dozens of women were mentioned in the text to the point where I could not make heads or tails of which was which.  Add to this the fact that many of the women had the same first name and I was a goner.  Unfortunately, this was a big deal breaker for me, and although I finished the book, it was really hard for me to get through, at least the first part.

I was disappointed with the execution of A Train in Winter.  I feel that it is a very powerful book that could have made much more of an impact.

About Caroline Moorehead

The author of numerous biographies and works of history, including Gellhorn and Human Cargo, Caroline Moorehead has also written for The Telegraph, The Times, and The Independent. The cofounder of a legal advice center for asylum seekers from Africa, she divides her time between England and Italy.

Caroline’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, November 8th: Unabridged Chick

Friday, November 11th: Elle Lit.

Monday, November 14th: Diary of an Eccentric

Wednesday, November 16th: Among Stories

Wednesday, November 16th: Unabridged Chick - author interview

Thursday, November 17th: Broken Teepee

Friday, November 18th: Ted Lehmann’s Bluegrass, Books, and Brainstorms

Monday, November 21st: Jenny Loves to read

Tuesday, November 22nd: Picky Girl

Wednesday, November 23rd: Books Like Breathing

Monday, November 28th: Reviews by Lola

Tuesday, November 29th: Buried in Print

Wednesday, November 30th: Savvy Verse & Wit

Thursday, December 1st: In the Next Room

Friday, December 2nd: Wordsmithonia

Friday, December 2nd: Books and Movies

Monday, December 5th: Take Me Away

 

The Sunday Salon

Happy Sunday everyone! Things have been quiet around here for most of the week.  I shudder to think of my Google Reader! I am so thrilled to have a day off today in which to catch up on my blogging and housework.  We were originally going to go get our Christmas tree today but the mud and rain put a stop to that.  I do plan on putting out some decorations today though, so hopefully we can get our tree soon.

My Thanksgiving was great, and filled with the company of my family and my husband’s family, which was wonderful.

Me holding my mom's fat cat Patrick

The above picture is from my mom’s house on Thanksgiving.  Don’t mind my drunk looking sister on my shoulder.

Black Friday was not as bad as I anticipated–in fact, my co workers and I had a lot of fun dancing around and getting everyone into the holiday spirit.  I love working retail during the holiday season, despite the madness that can ensue.

I hope you all have a great Sunday.  My book club is meeting tonight to discuss Wench, by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, so I am looking forward to that.  I think it will elicit a great discussion!

Happy Thanksgiving (and Black Friday!)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Originally, I had planned to review and post about more than one book this week but I got a little lazy and figured that the blogosphere will be pretty quiet this week anyway.  So instead I am just popping in to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! I am spending the morning and early afternoon with my husband’s family and then we will head over to spend the rest of the day with my family.  I hope it’s a very relaxing day because the rest of the weekend will be crazy!

I have never been a Black Friday shopper, but working in retail ensures that I must venture out and spend the day in that madness! The shop I work for will have no promotion or sale, so we will be busy but not completely slammed like some other places.

Please share with me your plans for the weekend! Will you be doing any shopping? Or any reading?

Book Review: Delirium

Delirium

Lauren Oliver

Harper Collins

480 pages

I love you.  Remember.  They cannot take it.

I don’t want to review this book.  I seriously want to just spend this entire post just gushing about how much I loved it. It was one of those books where I just finished it and didn’t know what to do with myself.  So I went ahead and pre ordered the next book, Pandemonium, on Amazon.  What other choice did I have?  Now I must wait until March to get my next fix!

Delirium is the first in a trilogy that portrays the US as a dystopian society that has banned love.  Every person must have a neurological surgery once they turn eighteen in order to ensure that they are no longer capable of feeling love towards anyone or anything.  Unfortunately, there is always a risk of contracting the disease for your eighteenth birthday, and due to medical complications, it’s not safe to perform the surgery before you’re an adult.

Lena has 95 days until surgery.  She cannot wait.  Her mother had the surgery three times, none of which were successful, and she instead committed suicide.  Her mother’s legacy has always been a stigma for Lena and she can’t bear the thought of turning out like her mother, so she counts down the days until she will be safe from the disease.  She has one last summer to spend with her best friend Hana.

Guess what happens next? Lena meets a boy, Alex, and falls in love.  Did you see that one coming? All people who have been cured have an inverted triangle tattooed by their ear, which Alex has, so Lena feels safe around him, knowing that he is safe and cannot fall in love with her.  Except it turns out that Alex is masquerading as cured.  He actually hasn’t had the surgery.  He is a resistor.

I have read quite a few reviews of Delirium that lament that it moves too slowly (most of these reviews were admittedly on Amazon).  I will agree that it doesn’t move quite as fast as some other dystopian YA I have read, but in the end that doesn’t matter, because it impacted me more than any of those books.  Once I got into the story, I couldn’t put it down.  The love affair between Alex and Lena was so tangible and I was deeply touched by it, despite the fact that they are only teenagers.

If you haven’t read this one yet, I urge you to pick it up ASAP. Unless you want to wait until March.  Because once you finish Delirium, you will want to move on to Pandemonium immediately.

Other Reviews:

Book Journey

Good Books & Good Wine

Rhapsody in Books

S Krishna’s Books

Presenting Lenore

Erin Reads

I purchased this book from Target.

Saturday Snapshot

Yes. I am one of those people that lets my cats on the counters.  Sue me!

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce at At Home with Books.

Book Review: The Marriage Plot

The Marriage Plot

Jeffrey Eugenides

Farrar, Straus & Giroux

416 pages

The Marriage Plot opens on Brown’s graduation day in 1982.  Madeleine Hanna is one of the students graduating, and when the book opens you realize that she is at an important point in her life but you’re unsure of the circumstances.  Slowly, the facts emerge and a love triangle of sorts is revealed.  You have Mitchell Grammaticus, who is a more introspective character.  He has been in love with Madeleine for awhile but his devotion is unrequited so he leaves for India after graduation with a lot of questions.

We eventually realize that Madeleine’s sorrow on her graduation is due to her breakup with Leonard Bankhead.  Leonard is a philosophical guy who has dealt with his own demons for years.  He suffers from severe clinical depression, the magnitude of which Madeleine does not realize right away.

The Marriage Plot follows Leonard, Madeleine and Mitchell for months after their graduation.  It’s such a dense novel and I couldn’t really determine my own feelings towards the characters.  My gut told me that I was rooting for Mitchell and Madeleine to get together; for her to unearth an undying love for Mitchell.  I think this is due to the fact that I was very drawn to Mitchell.  He seemed so sensitive and caring and he didn’t have the issues that Leonard had.

I really struggled with Leonard.  I felt awful for him.  I have never seen depression portrayed in such an ugly, hurtful way, so I guess that’s to say that I never realized how truly damaging depression can be.  I struggled with The Marriage Plot because I wanted Madeleine to forget Leonard and move on, and what kind of person did that make me? At times I thought Madeleine was incredibly stupid for not cutting her losses, but if you’re in love with someone, you’re supposed to stick by them, through better or worse, so in the end I couldn’t fault her for giving everything to her relationship with Leonard.  Maybe that’s the romantic in me.

I fought so hard with The Marriage Plot when I first started it.  It wasn’t an easy book for me to engage with, and I was unsure of whether I would appreciate it.  Once I got into the meat of it, I was able to relax a little bit and allow the story to take control.  The burning question: did I enjoy it as much as The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex? It was certainly more of a struggle for me than it was for the first two, but I am finding it hard to compare the three.  They are all so different from one another that it’s like apples and oranges.

The Marriage Plot was one of my most anticipated novels of 2011 and I am glad I stuck with it because despite my initial reservations, it ended up resonating with me.

Other Reviews:

things mean a lot

nomadreader

Fizzy Thoughts

Farm Lane Books Blog

Bibliophile by the Sea

I received a copy of this book as a blog win from Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea.  Thanks Diane!

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