reading, books

The Weekly Reading Fix: September 12th – 17th

This was a week of good books, readers! A new release in a favorite series of mine and a couple books that have been on my TBR list for a while. Here’s a look at what I read this week:

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor NoahTrevor Noah

I don’t watch The Daily Show (except for clips I see online) and didn’t know much about Trevor Noah prior to reading this book, but the description interested me. He was born in South Africa, to a white father and a black mother, at a time when apartheid still existed and interracial relationships were illegal. The book is a mixture of memories he has from his youth and explanations about life and the culture of South Africa.

His writing is funny and enjoyable to read; even though he has had some horrible experiences in his life, he writes about them with humor and wit. I have little knowledge of South Africa, or what it would be like to live there, so I appreciated the descriptions and explanations that went along with the stories he told. Noah’s relationship with his mother is at the core of this book and also his life. She is truly a remarkable woman, who fought against the societal pressures of the time so that her son could have a better life.

I was a little disappointed at the ending, mainly because I wanted the book to keep going. It really is a book about his childhood, and I would like to know more about his adult life and how he became a successful comedian. Maybe he’ll write that book next.

Rating:

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The Stars are Fire by Anita ShreveAnita Shreve

I’ve never read anything by this author before, although I know she is popular and has written several other books. This is the story of Grace, a woman in her early twenties, who is stuck in an unhappy marriage. She is the mother of two children under two and is pregnant with her third child. It’s October 1947, and after a long drought, fires are springing up all over Maine, where Grace lives. One night, her husband goes to help battle the fires in a local town and leaves Grace and the children home. During the night, the fire reaches their house and Grace must act quickly to save her children and herself.

I don’t want to say much more about the plot, except that this is the story about a woman realizing how strong she is and learning how to take care of herself. What I liked most about this book were the several times that the story did not go the way I thought it would. The author could have tied things up neatly and easily in a few different ways but she chose to complicate things a bit, just as real life rarely goes as we expect. I read this book in one sitting and will definitely be reading more by Shreve.

Rating:

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The Girl who Takes and Eye for an Eye by David LagercrantzDavid Lagercrantz

This is the fifth book in the series which starts with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The first three books were written by Stieg Larsen, and Lagercrantz continued the series after Larsen’s death. I was happy to find that the fourth book (and first written by Lagercrantz) was so similar in style to the first three that I couldn’t even tell a different person had written it. If you haven’t read this series yet, you should definitely start with the first one. I will warn you though that there is a significant amount of violence and sexual abuse in the first book.

I thought this book got off to a slow start; the author front loads a lot of background information that you need to know in order for the story to make sense. At first I was missing the action and self-destructive behavior characteristic of Lisbeth Salander, the main character. But about halfway through the book, the action started to pick up and all the pieces of the story began to come together. I enjoyed this book and will definitely be keeping my eye out for the next one.

Rating:

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The Last Neanderthal by Claire CameronClaire Cameron

Rose, a modern day archaeologist, has just made a fascinating discovery in her research about Neanderthals. She’s rushing to get as much work done on her dig site as she can before the imminent birth of her child. Throughout her pregnancy, Rose struggles with the changes she knows the baby will bring to her life and her career. Rose’s story is told in alternating chapters with that of Girl, a young Neanderthal who is struggling to keep her family safe. As the story progresses, the women deal with very different circumstances and obstacles, yet there is a common thread to their lives, of being human and being women.

As a fan of historical fiction, I really enjoyed the parts of the book about Girl and her family. It is obvious that a tremendous amount of research went into telling her story. I had a harder time with Rose’s story, as I found her pretty unlikeable and hard to empathize with. She seemed to care more about her career than anything or anyone else in her life. She made decisions that put her health and that of her unborn child at risk, and it seemed unrealistic that there were few consequences to her actions. I’m not sure if the author intended for the reader to feel this way; at times it seemed as if the message was that all women feel a sense of desperation and unhappiness at the changes a child brings to their lives. However, I found it difficult to relate to Rose, which took away some of my enjoyment of the book. Overall, I think this is the type of book that will strike each reader in a different way, and you will have to make up your mind for yourself when you read it.

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That’s all for today. Happy reading, everyone!

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