Thursday, February 24, 2011

Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer by John Grisham

I really wanted to like this one. I like John Grisham. But, the things I like about Grisham - minute details about the law process, characters built with lots of background and history, don't work in a young adult book. Or rather the lack of those writing elements sort of make the story fall flat.

The premise is a good one.
Theodore, son of two lawyers and nephew of a third, LOVES the law and all the trappings. He has his own tiny office in his parent's office, is on first name basis with everyone from the secretaries to the security guard to the most important judge at the court house, and hands out free law advice to any fellow student who asks. His advice seems to be sound and based on a vast knowledge of the system and unlimited access to web info through passwords and codes available from his parents.

So far, so good.

There is a huge murder trial in town - a husband is accused of murdering his wife. But, the evidence is all circumstantial. Theodore is able to get tickets for his government class to attend the opening day arguments through all his connections.

Then Theodore is told a secret. Can you hear the ominous piano music in the background as this happens?

This secret is so big the entire trial will hinge on it. But, unlike surprise witnesses on TV (you know that isn't really real) Theodore must play by the rules. He must decide what to do with the information - it could be the difference between a conviction or an acquittal.

The most frustrating part of this book is the end...
Let me just say SERIES...

My vote is not over the top. It's interesting, quick and will catch those kids who enjoy all the law and order shows on TV, but it's isn't his best!

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

I am not sure I really like Olive Kitteridge. The book, I liked. The character...well. She is not a woman to be taken lightly, or ignored. She is a bore, a bully, an emotional bag of wind and well you get the picture. At least I think she is. Then again...

Let me try to explain.

This is one of those books that I had to keep asking myself if I really liked. There are TONS of characters and it doesn't seem to really fit together until you are way into the book. And each chapter has a cameo at least of Olive..she is the glue, or the peanut butter or at least the sticky jam that makes it hang together.

The book is a little like window peeking. As the reader, you are walking down the street in small town Maine (or Vermont ) and pausing at each house to listen in to what is really happening behind the doors. This is not the glitzy, sweet small town glimpse that idolizes the drugstore and the quaint seaside village with it's church steeples and odd characters. Instead, it's more like what people look like first thing in the morning without makeup or brushed teeth. It's a bit raw and uncomfortable...and that's precisely when Olive seems to appear.

But, there is a part of Olive, buried deeply in the rolls of her ample body, that is able to pause with her hand on the spiked haired head of an anorexic girl. This Olive tears up without wanting to, meaning to, or hardly even realizing as she talks to her dear husband Henry on the phone after his stroke. She is a bundle of opposites. She hates to be at home alone, but she also hates the jobs and people that are out there...

Life isn't what she expected...but she didn't really have any expectations...

I really liked the complicated pictures of the people in this book. I liked that I was often a bit confused. I liked that I didn't like Olive and then she took me totally by surprise. I liked that New England was not perfect and Norman Rockwellish. I liked that even when Olive took a step forward - like reconciling with her son - she still messed up and panicked and ended up right back where she started. I liked that the story just ended.

So - I guess it's ok not to love the main character, not to even like her most of the time, and end up with a book that makes me wonder and ponder and revisit.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese

I just finished this one...
image from LibraryThing

This is a book which was recommended by many people I know...acclaimed to be the best book they have read.

As I started reading I kept wondering when this was going to turn into that book...and you know it did without me even noticing. This is one of those that gets under your skin and keeps me thinking...returning to Marion and wondering.

The story is told by Marion Praise Stone, the twin son of a dead nun and an AWOL surgeon in Ethopia in the 60s. The story moves back and forth from Marion and Shiva, his brother, growing up and the story of the way their mother and father met, worked and his mother died. The story unfolds in a mission hospital in Addis called Missing by the natives. Marion and Shiva are mirror image twins who were born attached to one another by a thin strand on their skulls. Although the connection is long gone, they continue to find solace when their skulls rest side by side. The two are raised by loving parents...Ghosh and Hema. Ghosh is a surgeon at the hospital and the resident theologian, He,a is a gynocologist and a feisty Indian woman.

In this description there may be nothing that really calls you. But, this is a story of deep and profound love...Marion for Ganet, the daughter of his nanny. Ghosh for Hema...he followed her across a continent and offered her a yearly wedding contract in case she changed her mind. Ghosh and Hemas love creates a home that allows MarionShiva to grow and blossom, but the love between Marion and Ganet is one-sided and eventually brings a ruin no one expected.

Marion, as the lone storyteller is honest and confused and hurt and curious and I really liked him. I cared when his heart was broken by first his father then his brother and his sweetheart. I cheered him on as he began a new life..and more

I can't say this is the best book I've heart belongs to The Time Traveler's Wife but, it was a very memorable story!