Do you love a good retelling? This may be the book for you. Check out Book Worm’s review of Marissa Meyer’s latest retelling. This time she takes on Alice in Wonderland. Read more
2017 is off to a good start for me, at least in terms of books. I’m participating in Litsy’s A to Z challenge (I’m admittedly obsessed with Litsy after finally discovering all the cool things over there) and since I’m mildly compulsive with respect to the order of how I complete challenges, I started off the year with “A.” Thus, The Association of Small Bombs by Mahajan was my first selection of the year.
Over the course of 2016 Book Worm and made our way through the 5 volumes of The Story of the Stone by Cao Xueqin. Considered to be one of China’s four great classical novels, it was written in the 18th century during the Qing Dynasty. I finally completed the last volume in December. Here are our reviews of this important Chinese Classic… Read more
Jeanette Winterson just came out with a new book this holiday season. She is one of our favorite authors and it just so happened that Book Worm and I were reading her first novel at the time of her latest release. Here are our thoughts about Oranges are Not the Only Fruit. Read more
Don DeLillo has several books on the 1001 list and a few of us predicted that his latest book would make the Man Booker longlist. One of our contributors hated the book and another contributor loved it. Let us know what you thought of it. Here’s my (Book Worm’s) review of the book. Read more
Happy Halloween! I’m a bit of a whimp when it comes to reading horror or scary books so this year I was pleased with the book Book Worm and I selected for our Halloween read: Midwich Cuckoos. Check out what we thought of the book and scroll down to see my top ten list of Halloween reads. Read more
The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J Church
Published in: 2016
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Find it here: The Atomic Weight of Love
This ARC was provided by Algonquin Books (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis from Goodreads: In her sweeping debut novel, Elizabeth J. Church takes us from the World War II years in Chicago to the vast sun-parched canyons of New Mexico in the 1970s as we follow the journey of a driven, spirited young woman, Meridian Wallace, whose scientific ambitions are subverted by the expectations of her era.
In 1941, at seventeen years old, Meridian begins her ornithology studies at the University of Chicago. She is soon drawn to Alden Whetstone, a brilliant, complicated physics professor who opens her eyes to the fundamentals and poetry of his field, the beauty of motion, space and time, the delicate balance of force and energy that allows a bird to fly.
Entranced and in love, Meridian defers her own career path and follows Alden west to Los Alamos, where he is engaged in a secret government project (later known to be the atomic bomb). In married life, though, she feels lost and left behind. She channels her academic ambitions into studying a particular family of crows, whose free life and companionship are the very things that seem beyond her reach. There in her canyons, years later at the dawn of the 1970s, with counterculture youth filling the streets and protests against the war rupturing college campuses across the country, Meridian meets Clay, a young geologist and veteran of the Vietnam War, and together they seek ways to mend what the world has broken.
Exquisitely capturing the claustrophobic eras of 1940s and 1950s America, The Atomic Weight of Love also examines the changing roles of women during the decades that followed. And in Meridian Wallace we find an unforgettable heroine whose metamorphosis shows how the women’s movement opened up the world for a whole generation.
Book Worm’s Thoughts: This is a thoughtful book about what it meant to be woman discovering yourself in the 1940’s. At first Meridian seems to have it all, a college education and a thesis studying the language and behavior of crows, and a man who loves and inspires her. However, things start going wrong after her marriage, when she discovers that she is expected to follow her man and sacrifice her dreams in the process.
Meridian is a strong character and she struggles with the confines life has put on her. She tries to be a happy and supportive wife but finds that this is hard to do when you harbor resentment and your husband is oblivious to your feelings. As the years progress we see Meridian sacrifice more and more for a marriage that will not bring her happiness. While I could have quite cheerfully left Alden alone in the desert, it is clear to the reader that despite his faults Meridian still loves the man she first met.
I loved the way each chapter opened with a description about various birds and the crow diaries that Meridian keeps are fascinating. I also liked the desert setting which really added to the feelings of isolation with which Meridian suffers. The title is also very apt as atoms are a central part of the story and the cover is intelligent as well as beautiful, I mean look at it!
Who would like this? Ultimately this is a book about one woman’s life and the choices she makes against the backdrop of what society expects. So I would recommend this to those who like stories with strong female characters and a feminist viewpoint.
Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: The Atomic Weight of Love
We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think?
The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan
Published in: 2013
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Find it here: The Valley of Amazement
Synopsis from Amazon (as Goodreads had too many spoilers): An expansive, heartbreaking novel from the internationally bestselling author of ‘The Joy Luck Club’.
In turn-of-the-century Shanghai, Violet Minturn is raised by her American mother, the mistress of the city’s most renowned courtesan house. When the revolution comes, a cruel deception forces Violet to become a virgin courtesan.
‘The Valley of Amazement’ is the story of three women, bound by blood and betrayal. But, as she struggles to understand her heritage, it is Violet’s determination to forge her own destiny that propels this bittersweet tale of family secrets, changing identities and lost love.
Book Worm’s Thoughts: I am counting this book for my read different challenge because the author is a female, first generation Asian American and the book is set in Shanghai (different from my own background and location).
I really loved the first 3/4 of this book as we followed Violet growing up in a high class courtesan house run by her American mother. We see how she copes with the change in circumstances that lead to her becoming a virgin courtesan herself.
The details about the life of the courtesans and the etiquette involved in courting a courtesan, as well as the details of what happens to the courtesans when they get older, was detailed, colorful, and felt very genuine. The characters had a real depth, especially Magic Gourd, who becomes Violet’s best friend and mother figure. The clients were all different. Some were cruel, some kind, but all distinct from each other. The rival courtesans were portrayed as women who could understand each other and sympathise with each other but who would also stab each other in the back to save themselves. Jealousy and competition were rife and in a world where you are judged and valued by your beauty and the male attention you can get, this felt entirely believable.
I also liked the details about Chinese honour and the place of courtesans in family life. It was interesting to see what the change in regime meant for the foreigners who had made Shanghai their home.
I didn’t really enjoy the last 1/4 of the book which explained about the American side of the family. There was not so much depth to the descriptions of the landscape or to the characters and I was left feeling like this section was tacked on simply to tie up loose ends. I know some readers will love the ending, but I felt Violet’s story was enough on its own. That’s not to say the last 1/4 was bad. it just lacked the magic of the rest of the book.
“To save myself I destroyed another, and in doing so I destroyed myself”
“Only Americans think they have rights,” Magic Gourd said. “What laws of heaven give you more rights and allow you to keep them? They are words on paper written by men who make them up and claim them. One day they will blow away, just like that.”
“How could any girl think this was a lucky life? And yet if I were Chinese and compared this life with all the possibilities, I, too, might believe over time that I was lucky to be here.”
“Remember this, Violet, when you step on the stage, you are not loved for who you are. When you stop off, you may not be loved at all.”
“I was most puzzled by my own reaction. No matter how American I was -or wanted to be-China was, in my heart, my homeland”
Who would like this book? I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed Memoirs of a Geisha and to anyone with an interest in learning about Shanghai and the courtesan traditions. I would also recommend this to those who like strong female characters and the relationships between them.
Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: The Valley of Amazement
We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? Have you read others by Amy Tan? Which books of hers are your favorites?
June was Pride month and I was looking for something to read that would suit my mood and fit my “read different” goals. I came across this article 10 Books to Read for Pride Month and The Gilda Stories really caught my attention. Read more
Shame on me but I’d never heard of Blake Crouch until I saw this book being promoted at Book Expo this year. I like speculative fiction (Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors) but I don’t typically read too many books that fall into the genre. I went into this book knowing little to nothing about it and here’s what I thought… Read more