Book reviews: August reads

So, the heat of the summer is time for some light, flaky books, right? Or not, if you’re me. I don’t always choose what book comes next on my reading list – often it all has to do when my holds come up at the library. Then, I have three weeks to read them, so I better get to. And this month, some of my very big, very heavy books that had been hanging around on my holds list for months came up. At the same time. So in the middle of a move and a renovation, I’ve been struggling to finish these. Because if I’ve been waiting nearly a year for a book, I have to finish it. To not would be such a failure. So here are my next reads:



City of Bohane, by Kevin Barry
City of Bohane, by Kevin Barry, was an interesting read, although it took awhile to get into it. The use (and delightful abuse) of the language really made the book, but you had to wrap your head around a nearly incoherent, fictional dialect and get into the cadence of it. For the most part, City of Bohane reads like poetry, including the meandering plot and insightful vignettes found in here. The setting is key, in the futuristic West Irish town torn apart and defined by vicious gang wars. There are love stories in here, and some kick ass female characters, and in all I enjoyed the read. But when I put the book down, I still looked at it for awhile and thought “what the fuck.”

Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts

Gregory David Roberts’ Shantaram was the book that sat patiently on my hold list since last fall, and then all of a sudden got pushy and demanded to be read right away. When I realized it was another 900-page book about India, I groaned a little. But it had promise. Shantaram is Roberts’ autobiography. He was already a heroin addict, a bank robber and an escaped convict when the book began, so you knew there had to be something to this guy’s life.

However, so much happens to this guy that it began to seem a little improbable to me. I don’t know if anything here was exaggerated or even made up, but if not, I have no idea how this guy is still alive. He went on to become a doctor in a Mumbai slum, a gangster and a fighter in the Afghani war. He never mentions it in the book, but he is eventually recaptured and served the rest of his criminal sentence in Australia, during which time he wrote the book.

Implausibly crazy life story as it was, I found it could get a little boring. This guy is really into himself and his indepth enlightened look at life. Also, it reads like he threw up a thesaurus all over it. To say the language is a little flowery is an understatement. In the end, I’m not sure how I’d rate this book. In comparison to the other giant book on India I’ve recently read, I think I preferred Sacred Games. Maybe.

Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

This beauty, however, was a delight from start to finish. A book about books, or a series about books as is Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Cemetary of Lost Books, is a book for a book lover, if that makes any sense. It’s gorgeously written and mysterious and is almost like a dark fairy tale. It is deliciously European, and the setting in Barcelona creates part of the sensual atmosphere throughout.

A young boy is taken to the Cemetary of Forgotten Books by his father, where he is allowed to rescue one book only. When he starts to look into the other books by the author, he discovers a mysterious figure naming himself as one of the characters out of the book is systematically burning every one of the author’s books. As the boy delves deeper into the author’s life, his own becomes wrapped up within the mystery, his life beginning to ominously reflect the disappeared author’s. The whole thing was cool, with a very satisfying ending. I will definitely be seeking the next book in the series.

Unholy Ghosts, by Stacia Kane

Okay, after all that darkness it was time for that ubiquitous summer read – light, flaky, fun. I had been hoping that Stacia Kane’s Unholy Ghosts would be similar to Kelly Armstrong’s Women of the Underworld series, which I love. It’s not quite the same thing, but a supernatural sort-of romance I could drift away into for a few days was just what I needed as a palate cleanser. Now to see what books will find me in September …

Word of the day:

Penury: extreme poverty, destitution; scarcity; dearth; inadequacy; insufficiency


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