Things to Read - Winter Reading

I know I sound like a broken record, but it's been a cold, miserable winter thus far (yesterday we woke to freezing rain), so our family has spent A LOT of time camped out on the couch.

Luckily, at the end of 2013 all of the major news outlets released lists of their best books of the year (fyi - this website does a wonderful job at compiling the multitude of lists), so I was overwhelmed with reading options.

Revenge - I discovered Yoko Ogawa's Revenge through Salon's list of the most underrated books of 2013. I'm a huge Haruki Murakami fun, but I find his newest books sort of blah. So I was excited to learn of a new-to-me Japanese author whose writing also delves into the surreal.

Ogawa's interconnected stories are much darker than Murakami's work, but despite the book's namesake few of them actually seem evil or malicious. Rather most of Ogawa's characters come off as sad and lonely. From the woman who needs a purse made for her heart (which hangs outside of her body) to the lonely old man who oversees a museum of torture implements, nobody's life is going well. And, oddly, despite the stories' dark tones, all of Ogawa's characters provoke some sympathy from the reader, despite their tragic flaws.

The Luminaries - I pretty much hated this book, which is partially my own fault as I knew very little about the plot when I began reading it. I mainly read the Luminaries because it was last year's Booker Prize winner (and, if I'm being honest, I also loved the cover art and that the name reminded me of the Lumineers - both awful reasons for choosing a book).

This INCREDIBLY LONG novel takes place in New Zealand during the gold rush of 1866 and centers around a mystery involving a dead man, a missing man, and a passed out prostitute. Through conversations and recollections of various town members, you spend numerous pages and days trying to sort together what happened. I kept reading because I thought the end would contain some huge reveal or big surprise, but (maybe because I was so bored) I never ended up really caring how it all came together. I found most of the characters (and there are NUMEROUS characters) flat and uninteresting. Though the author tries to differentiate between them by piling on adjectives describing "the type of man he is", I found her character portraits boring as well. Yawn.

The Lowland - Ever since I read Interpreter of Maladies, 15 or so years ago, I've been a huge fan of Jhumpa Lahiri. And her newest novel, the Lowland, does not disappoint.

In a nutshell, the plot centers on two brothers and how their lives intermingle throughout the years, as one stays in their homeland of India and becomes involved with a (somewhat) radical student movement, while the other brother travels to America for his pHd. The novel starts off rather slow with Lahiri detailing the history of India's Mao-inspired Naxalite movement, but as the story moves to the relationship between the brothers I found it almost impossible to stop reading. So so good.

Divergent - Similar to the Hunger Games, Divergent is the first novel in a dystopian trilogy centered on a female heroine (can I just say, that as the mom of two girls, I'm LOVING all these female role models? Publishers keep them coming, PLEASE). I found the plot more far-fetched then the Hunger Games (yes, the world of Divergent is even less believable that the world in which we watch and cheer as young children slaughter each other on TV) and the writing not quite as good. But still, Divergent makes for some addictive reading, I finished it in two days. And, since I NEED to know what happens next, I'll probably knock off the other two books in the series sooner rather than later.

So what have you been reading lately??

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