Maira's Books

In January of 2005 I started this blog as a record of books I’ve read as I was afraid I would forget what I have read. I have often referred back to my own blog to remember a book's contents or see what I have read by an author. I have enjoyed passing my books on to friends or recommending books to read. I know I have missed recording some, but in general I try to keep up with what I have read or listened to.

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Location: Kalamazoo, MI, United States

I am a librarian at Waldo Library at Western Michigan University.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks (2001)

Not exactly a joyousy book, but again a well researched historical novel about a town in England in 1665-66 that had the plague and quarantined itself from the rest of the world for a year until the epidemic was through. I have heard the plague mentioned when reading about history many times, but I somehow could not imagine the devastation, even when they said half or three quarters of the population died. This made it very real, personal, as each family loses members, maybe all, and what happens to those left behind, especially children. What happens when people filling certain roles in a town die? How does everyone cope?

I really appreciate it when an author explains where the idea came from and how much is real, how much has come from the author's imagination. Brooks provides her explanations in an afterward. Brooks visited the village of Eyam, which really did suffered the plague, and has quite a few books and plays written about the event, though she said there weren't many real facts, but quite a few anecdotes. I liked her comment: "William Styron once wrote that the historical novelist works best if fed on 'short rations' by the factual record." The voice of the novel is Anna, who is mentioned in a letter as: "My maid continues in health; which was a blessing..." Amazing that Brooks could take that brief mention and weave this elaborate tale of Anna's family, her miner husband who gets killed before the plague in a mining accident, her children, her work with the minister and his wife Elinor, etc. I really liked the way Anna and Elinor learned about herbs and their healing qualities, when the local wise woman and her apprentice were no longer available. And I enjoyed looking into the life of a small English village in the 17th century.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts (2008)

Two kids run away from Spearfish, South Dakota, after the woman they were living with dies in a Wal-Mart. They head to Las Vegas to find their father. Lutie is the 15 year old sister who has a foul mouth, shoplifts, but loves her 12 year old brother dearly and tries to provide for him. Fate is the brilliant little brother who loves books and facts and hangs out in libraries, when possible. I have to say at times it was hard to listen to their down and out life in Las Vegas, but you know that they will pull through and they do - someone helps them and takes them someplace where they can heal and find themselves.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (2005)

I have been avoiding this very popular young adult series, because I heard it was about vampires, and as I have stated before, they are not my favorites, though I seem to keep running into books about them. I decided I was going to wait when this first one of the series was available in the audio book store, and so there it was.

The story is set mostly in Forks, WA on the Olympic Peninsula. Since I was going to Seattle for a conference, and was going to have a day to see something, I was looking closely at maps of the area and found Forks. A friend suggested La Push as a good beach to go to, and the characters in the book go to the beach at La Push. Unfortunately both Forks and La Push were too far for me to visit, but I got close and got the feel for the dense, lush forests described in the book. I later went on Stephanie Meyer's site and found that she needed a very rainy part of the country for her setting and she had found Forks through Google. Love it!

The story itself starts out as a fairly typical teen story - girl goes to live with her father in Forks, so her mother can follow her current husband as he travels playing ball. I think Meyer did a good job of capturing the awkwardness of going to a new school and slowly making friends. But then she is drawn to a gorgeous boy who always sits with his siblings and seems to avoid her. They do become friends and I don't think I would be spoiling the plot to say she discovers he is a vampire - but one of the good kind, that doesn't drink human blood. It definitely makes for an interesting relationship. Other than the slow parts where she keeps harping on how beautiful he is and why would he want to spend time with her, I think it was engaging, and I might even read the rest of them.