Sunday, December 30, 2007

Reading Roundup

I've read lots of great books as we approach the end of the year. Here they are:

Q's Legacy by Helene Hanff is a memoir but felt a bit like a series of magazine articles. Hanff writes about her early life and how she came to write 84, Charing Cross Road and about her subsequent trips to London. She details the filming of the BBC TV production of 84 CCR in the 70's - I'd love to be able to watch this production now. She also writes about meeting with many of her fans and how 84 was brought to the stage in London. It was really a very remarkable book, dealing with extraordinary events in what Hanff felt was really a quite ordinary life. Hanff writes with her trademark humor and wit and I found myself charmed by her and rooting for her all over again. This was truly a wonderful read and my fourth Hanff book in 2007!

Identical Strangers - A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein was a terrific read. These twin sisters were adopted as infants and separated due to a secret study of identical twins being carried out by the adoption agency. The sisters never learned of it until adulthood - and only then by accident. The story is told from both women's points of view; it is in turn devastating, joyful, and mysterious. I was astonished by their brutal honesty in telling their story and their innermost feelings about one another. This story is not just a memoir - it is also a book about twins, separated and not, and gives a pretty good argument for nature winning the nature vs. nurture debate. The story also has at its center a mystery, that of the twins mother, and the book ends with a final stunning climactic chapter. This was a wonderful read; I think I would say it is my eleventh favorite of the year, having already listed my top ten.

Have You Found Her is a compulsively readable memoir by Janice Erlbaum, a teen runaway turned successful writer. Erlbaum decides as an adult to volunteer at the shelter in NYC she stayed at as a teen. She visits weekly and brings beads for the girls to work with. Erlbaum has a habit of becoming emotionally attached to certain girls - she really desires validation from these girls. Erlbaum meets a young woman named Sam who has been living on the streets for years and the two form an instant connection. This is a painfully honest memoir and I found myself judging the author at times due to her behavior with drugs (she was smoking pot regularly) and her intense relationship with Sam which left her emotionally on edge and neglectful of her own friends and boyfriend. She seems to really have a need to feel needed. The author is really brave, in my opinion, for sharing so much of herself with the reader. The description on the back of this book states "Sam was more troubled than anybody had known, in ways no one could have imagined" and it was this line that propelled me through this book - I read the last half in one sitting, neglecting my own family in the process. I thought this was a very good read and came to a satisfying conclusion. I received this book thanks to the Librarything Early Reviewers program and it will be available in March 2008 according to the back cover.

Finally, I read the second Maisie Dobbs book, Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear. I liked it, though not quite as much as the first book. I really fell in love with the middle section of that book that dealt with Maisie's youth and young adulthood. I will continue to read the books in this series. Since I'm not a big mystery reader I like that they are somewhat light on the mystery part and heavy on atmosphere.

I think this will be my last post of 2007! I am looking forward to starting the New Year and getting back into a routine. It seems that we are just at the beginning of what looks to be a very long winter so I must find ways to embrace that and reading is certainly my favorite way.

Happy New Year to all of you - you've enriched my life, particularly my reading life in so many ways and I thank you.


Anonymous said...

Hope you have a very happy new year, Tara! I think I will slip a book or two in between the next Maisie Dobbs book. I usually find when I read an author's books back-to-back that I somehow don't like the 2nd one. Anyway, we'll look forward to chatting in the new year.

melanie said...

Email me your addy and i'll send you m dobbs #3. The fourth comes out this spring. Thanks for unpacking those other books - I'm definitely going to read the twin one and Ms. Hanff. You may have already read The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King - that's my fave mystery. Happy New Year!!

Literary Feline said...

I need to read the Maisie Dobbs books. My husband read the first in the series this past year and said I would probably like it.

Have You Found Her sounds like a good one too! Got it on my wishlist now. :-)

I hope you have a wonderful New Year, Tara!

Eva said...

Happy New Year! I liked the middle part of the first Maisie Dobbs book as well, so I probably won't try the other books. That memoir sounds good!

Tara said...

Kay, thank you. I think that's a good idea and I will leave more time between M. Dobbs 2 and 3. Happy 2008!

Melanie, I will email you!

Literary Feline, I think you would like the Maisie Dobbs series - I hope you'll try them. Have You Found Her was a great read - it looks as though everyone who has read it early has enjoyed it.

Eva, I hope I didn't put you off the M. Dobbs books! I definitely did like the second, but I'm not a big mystery reader and really appreciate the atmosphere more than the mystery part.

Nan said...

I'm with you on the Hanff books. Anne Bancroft really does a wonderful job in the movie; she's exactly how I imagine HH.

I love the Maisie Dobbs series and own them all. I've read the first three, have the fourth listed for the TBR challenge, and a new one comes out soon! I adore her, I love the writing, I love the time period, and I always list them as fiction rather than mystery.

Robin said...

Happy New Year, Tara! The Hanff book sounds really good. I loved 84 Charing Cross Road, so I'm sure I'd like this one, too. And I need to read the Maisie Dobbs books. They keep calling to me.

Tara said...

Nan, I've got to watch the film soon as I still haven't. I am in complete agreement with your thoughts on Maisie Dobbs. I'll be reading more.

Robin, thank you! I'm sure you'd enjoy the Hanff if you've enjoyed her other writing. I avoided the MD books for so long as I don't consider myself a 'mystery' reader but am so glad I gave them a try.

Carrie K said...

I was at a Author Event w/Jacqueline Winspear and her books always sound like such good reads - and I still haven't picked one up yet! All those books look good.

Tara said...

Carrie, what fun it must have been to see Jacqueline Winspear! Her books are really enjoyable, in my opinion.