Rachel's Reading in Orange

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Rachel's Reading in Orange

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1The_Hibernator
Bearbeitet: Jun. 28, 2012, 12:37pm

Hi, thought I'd start out a thread in preparation of Orange July. I've read a few Orange longlist books, and none of the shortlist nor Award books. But I guess that means there's more for me out there to read?

Longlisted books read before 2012:
The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
The Bastard of Istanbul, by Elif Safak

2The_Hibernator
Bearbeitet: Jun. 28, 2012, 12:38pm


Orange Prize Longlist: The Help by Kathryn Stockett (1/14/2012)

My Review 4/5 stars
The Help was a well-written novel with an engaging (and endearing) story. Skeeter, a young Southern belle just returned home from college decides to cross racial boundaries and write a controversial book about how difficult it is being an African American maid in a white household in Mississippi. She doesn’t realize when she starts just how dangerous such a book could be. I think this book has an excellent theme (anti-racism and the pettiness of Southern White women in the 1960’s). However, it is very difficult to write a book about racism without making the defining feature of every character his or her race. This problem leads to excessive racial stereotyping—which is a pretty serious issue in this book. (The racial stereotyping applies to both whites and African Americans in this situation). Despite this problem, however, I think the book is worth reading for the sake of the story.

3The_Hibernator
Jun. 28, 2012, 12:33pm


Orange Prize Shortlist: Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel (6/13/2012)

My Review 4/5 stars
Wolf Hall is a highly acclaimed historical novel about Thomas Cromwell's early career first working for Wolsey and then for Henry VIII, engineering the rise of Anne Boleyn as Queen. Mantel brings various historical characters to vivacious life, expertly highlighting their virtues and vices. Her lyrical prose sweeps the reader into the story. I loved this book and am eager to start Bring up the Bodies, the second book in the trilogy. However, I'll note for the sake of potential readers: this book is heavy reading and has a unique writing style which many people find confusing. I listened to the audiobook, which was particularly difficult to follow because of Mantel's unique use of pronouns. Although Simon Slater's performance is exceptional, I think the physical book may be easier to follow. Knowledge of the events described is not necessary for enjoyment of the book, but would greatly enhance it.

4The_Hibernator
Jul. 1, 2012, 9:37am


Orange Prize Longlist: The Septembers of Shiraz, by Dalia Sofer (6/30/2012)

My Review 3.5/5 stars
As an Iranian secular Jew, Isaac Amin's life is swept off-course by the Iranian revolution when he is arrested on false charges of being a Zionist spy. Septembers of Shiraz follows the stories of Isaac, his wife Farnaz, and his two children. I should have really liked this story: the cultural setting is interesting and the frightening circumstances should be emotionally engaging. Unfortunately, I didn't feel any emotion about the characters until the last third of the book. I'm not sure why this was...they just seemed distant. This fact is unfortunate since an emotional bond to the characters is really all this book had to offer me. I didn't learn anything new about the Iranian revolution or the types of problems non-revolutionary citizens faced, since I've already read other books on the subject. Not that the story is boring or unoriginal, quite the contrary. I think it would be an excellent book for someone who hasn't read much on the subject of the Iranian Revolution, or for someone who loves reading books on the subject.

5LizzieD
Jul. 1, 2012, 3:51pm

Helpful reviews, Rachel!
I do agree about *Shiraz*. It's not a bad book at all, but I had hoped for more, and my heart always sinks when I see people picking it up as a representative of Orange when so many amazing ones are out there.

6The_Hibernator
Jul. 1, 2012, 4:50pm

Thanks Peggy. Well, hopefully no one really thinks that reading one longlisted book will give them a good idea of the award as a whole! If it were my first experience, I'd shrug it off as: "well, I can see why some people would like it more than I did."

7The_Hibernator
Bearbeitet: Jul. 8, 2012, 8:13pm


Orange Prize Winner: Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (7/5/2012)

My Review 5/5 stars
Half of a Yellow Sun takes place in Nigeria during the Nigeria/Biafa civil war. The narrative follows 3 characters: Ugwu, a village boy who is taken in by some politically-inclined academics as a house boy; Olanna, Ugwu's mistress and a rich heiress; and Richard, a British expat who desperately wants to be accepted by the Biafrans as one of them. The stories of these three characters are superbly and tragically woven together on a backdrop of war, racial hatred, and famine. This is one of the most impressive books I've read in quite a while. The characters were so deep that I felt I knew them. The events described had an eerie realism to them that comes from the author's intimate knowledge of the history and people. This is one of those books that makes you feel like every incident described is important and well-planned. This is a story not only of war, but of people--their dreams, their loves, their fears, their strengths and weaknesses. Half of a Yellow Sun is a must-read for anyone interested in international literature.

8mrstreme
Jul. 6, 2012, 8:33am

Thanks for joining the fun! And so glad you started Orange July with an excellent book! =) ~Jill

9The_Hibernator
Jul. 6, 2012, 8:56am

Thanks Jill. I meant to start with The Septembers of Shiraz, but I finished that a day early. ;)

10Soupdragon
Jul. 7, 2012, 4:57pm

I've enjoyed reading your reviews, Rachel. I loved Half of a Yellow Sun, too.

11cushlareads
Jul. 7, 2012, 5:16pm

I'm really enjoying your reviews, too! I liked The Septembers of Shiraz more than you did, but having said that I can hardly remember the plot a year later. Not a great sign - or maybe just old age kicking in!!

I had very mixed feelings about The Help. I couldn't put it down and stayed up very late on holiday in 2010 to get it finished, but I thought Skeeter's transformation from complete naivety to saviour of the oppressed was a bit much. But I still really enjoyed it. (OK, I'm being harsh, but did she have her head under a rock all the time she was at university in the south?)

12The_Hibernator
Jul. 7, 2012, 6:51pm

Thanks Dee! It WAS a great book, wasn't it?

I could hardly put The Help down either, Cushla. It was interesting even if it was flawed. :)

13The_Hibernator
Jul. 8, 2012, 8:13pm


Orange Prize Winner: The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller (7/8/2012)

My Review 5/5 stars
On the outside, this book is a retelling of Achilles' actions in Troy; however, Miller has incorporated deeper elements to the well-known story. The Song of Achilles is a celebration of Achilles' humanity, rather than of his God-like martial skills. It is a touching love story between Achilles and his companion Patroclus. It is a story of forgiveness for human flaws. And it shows the reader that sometimes the best part of the story is forgotten in legends. Above all, it's one of those books that sucks you right in...and then leaves you breathless when it's over. Although Song of Achilles is technically fantasy, it is also a book that can be enjoyed by literary snobs and by people who don't know much about Greek mythology. I loved it.

14lauralkeet
Jul. 8, 2012, 8:24pm

Sigh. Loved this book.

15The_Hibernator
Jul. 19, 2012, 10:02am


Orange Prize Longlist: Translation of the Bones, by Francesca Kay (7/17/2012)

Reason for Reading: This book was longlisted for the Orange Prize this year, and it peaked my curiosity so I decided to give it a try.

My Review
When Mary-Margaret, a well-meaning but slow young woman, sees a vision of Jesus’ blood in a Roman Catholic Church, she stimulates a miracle-craze which compels many people to question the meaning of faith. This is a very difficult book for me to review because I’m rather ambivalent about it. It is deep with meaning—but would mean something different to the “faithful” than it would to the “faithless.” This is a quality that few books attain, and I believe this is why it deserved to be nominated for the Orange Prize. However, this story is also very sad…it took me in a direction I didn’t expect. There were a lot of negative messages mixed in with the positive messages, which, I suppose, represents life perfectly. But still…some of it was hard for me to read. I would recommend this book to anybody who wants to explore faith and the meaning of mother-child relationships more deeply, and with an open mind.

16mrstreme
Jul. 19, 2012, 12:04pm

Very intriguing book....Still can't decide if I want to read it or not! Thanks for you review!

17The_Hibernator
Mrz. 15, 2013, 9:59am

So far, I have read only Bring up the Bodies of the Orange Prize Longlist. :)

18The_Hibernator
Mrz. 26, 2013, 12:42pm

I just reviewed Lamb. http://www.librarything.com/topic/151170#3995109

So far, my ratings go in this order

1. Bring up the Bodies
2. Lamb

19rainpebble
Mrz. 28, 2013, 1:46am

So far Rachel, we are pretty much in agreement with your reads. I haven't yet read Wolf Hall and so cannot read Bring up the Bodies and what do you want to bet that one wins?

20The_Hibernator
Mrz. 28, 2013, 9:03am

Well, I'm sort of hoping one of the others wins because Bring up the Bodies got the Booker. So I'm hoping there will be one of these books on the list that's just a wee-bit better than that one. :) But if there IS one, I don't know which it will be!

21rainpebble
Mrz. 29, 2013, 4:18am

Of the ones I have read thus far (if it is not Bring up the Bodies, I would have to go with The Light Between Oceans. I don't think I am going to be able to get through them all in time though, to be able to give a good guess. When do they choose the winner? Is it June?

22The_Hibernator
Mrz. 29, 2013, 10:17am

June 5th, apparently. I don't think I'd be able to read the entire longlist by even if I dedicated my reading time to doing so. But I'm not going to dedicate my reading time to that, since I have SO many other goals as well. So I'll have to suffice with a rough guess too. :)

23rainpebble
Mrz. 29, 2013, 6:54pm

I know, right?

24rainpebble
Jun. 29, 2013, 2:12pm

Wondering what you are planning to read in Orange July? It's almost upon us.