Quick Thoughts on Five Recent Reads

Thanks so much to the fine folks that I won these books from. I have had an great couple of weeks of reading thanks to the following novels:

The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication Date: October 2012
Categories: Literary, Historical
Source: Library of Clean Reads


Lace is a thing like hope.
It is beauty; it is grace.
It was never meant to destroy so many lives.

The mad passion for forbidden lace has infiltrated France, pulling soldier and courtier into its web. For those who want the best, Flemish lace is the only choice, an exquisite perfection of thread and air. For those who want something they don’t have, Flemish lace can buy almost anything-or anyone.

For Lisette, lace begins her downfall, and the only way to atone for her sins is to outwit the noble who know demands an impossible length of it. To fail means certain destruction. But for Katharina, lace is her salvation. It is who she is; it is what she does. If she cannot make this stunning tempest of threads, a dreaded fate awaits.

A taut, mesmerizing story, The Ruins of Lace explores the intricate tangle of fleeting beauty, mad obsession, and ephemeral hope.

My Quick Thoughts:

  • I’m usually not a fan of a book told from the point of view of so many characters. But this one worked for me. 
  • Speaking of the characters, these were good ones. Some I felt sorry for, some I wanted to kick in the teeth.
  • I didn’t realize that lace was banned in France for a time. I adore learning new tidbits like that.

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: October 2012
Category: Literary
Source: The New Dork Review of Books

For more than thirty years, Edie and Richard Middlestein shared a solid family life together in the suburbs of Chicago. But now things are splintering apart, for one reason, it seems: Edie’s enormous girth. She’s obsessed with food–thinking about it, eating it–and if she doesn’t stop, she won’t have much longer to live. 

When Richard abandons his wife, it is up to the next generation to take control. Robin, their schoolteacher daughter, is determined that her father pay for leaving Edie. Benny, an easy-going, pot-smoking family man, just wants to smooth things over. And Rachelle– a whippet thin perfectionist– is intent on saving her mother-in-law’s life, but this task proves even bigger than planning her twin children’s spectacular b’nai mitzvah party. Through it all, they wonder: do Edie’s devastating choices rest on her shoulders alone, or are others at fault, too?

With pitch-perfect prose, huge compassion, and sly humor, Jami Attenberg has given us an epic story of marriage, family, and obsession. The Middlesteins explores the hopes and heartbreaks of new and old love, the yearnings of Midwestern America, and our devastating, fascinating preoccupation with food.

My Quick Thoughts:

  • Have I ever mentioned that I love stories that take place in the Midwest? Well I do. 
  • Poor Edie…I completely felt her pain.
  • I felt sorry for Richard. It’s easy to view him as the bad guy in this story but that isn’t quite the case
  • I think I expected more out of this book…it was good but it didn’t blow me away. That can happen sometimes when a book gets a lot of attention. I expect too much.

Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
Publication Date: September 2012
Category: Short Stories
Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Díaz’s first book, Drown, established him as a major new writer with “the dispassionate eye of a journalist and the tongue of a poet” (Newsweek). His first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, was named #1 Fiction Book of the Year” by Time magazine and spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, establishing itself – with more than a million copies in print – as a modern classic. In addition to the Pulitzer, Díaz has won a host of major awards and prizes, including the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, the PEN/Malamud Award, the PEN/O. Henry Prize, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the Anisfield-Wolf Award.
Now Díaz turns his remarkable talent to the haunting, impossible power of love – obsessive love, illicit love, fading love, maternal love. On a beach in the Dominican Republic, a doomed relationship flounders. In the heat of a hospital laundry room in New Jersey, a woman does her lover’s washing and thinks about his wife. In Boston, a man buys his love child, his only son, a first baseball bat and glove. At the heart of these stories is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness–and by the extraordinary women he loves and loses: artistic Alma; the aging Miss Lora; Magdalena, who thinks all Dominican men are cheaters; and the love of his life, whose heartbreak ultimately becomes his own. In prose that is endlessly energetic, inventive, tender, and funny, the stories in the New York Times-Bestselling This Is How You Lose Her lay bare the infinite longing and inevitable weakness of the human heart. They remind us that passion always triumphs over experience, and that “the half-life of love is forever.”

My Quick Thoughts:
  • Meh
  • I really, really liked The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. This is How You Lose Her was just ok for me. 
  • Short stories? Not generally my cup of tea.

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication Date: October 2012
Categories: Historical – General, Literary, Thriller
Source: Thanks to Roxane Gay!

On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art worth today over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.

Claire makes her living reproducing famous works of art for a popular online retailer. Desperate to improve her situation, she lets herself be lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting—one of the Degas masterpieces stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when the long-missing Degas painting—the one that had been hanging for one hundred years at the Gardner—is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery.

Claire’s search for the truth about the painting’s origins leads her into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life. B. A. Shapiro’s razor-sharp writing and rich plot twists make The Art Forger an absorbing literary thriller that treats us to three centuries of forgers, art thieves, and obsessive collectors. it’s a dazzling novel about seeing—and not seeing—the secrets that lie beneath the canvas.

My Quick Thoughts:

  • Oooh! I couldn’t put this one down! 
  • Great twists and turns that you don’t see coming.
  • Art History, yay!
  • I was fascinated by art forgery techniques. Who knew!? 

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: October 2012
Categories: Literary, Historical
Source: Burton Book Review

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), Benedictine abbess and polymath, composed an entire corpus of sacred music and wrote nine books on subjects as diverse as theology, natural science, medicine, and human sexuality—a prodigious intellectual outpouring that put many of her male contemporaries to shame. Her prophecies earned her the title Sibyl of the Rhine. An outspoken critic of political and ecclesiastical corruption, she courted controversy and nearly died an excommunicant. Her courage and originality of thought continue to inspire people today.

Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen reveals the unforgettable story of how Hildegard, offered as a tithe to the Church at the age of eight, triumphed against impossible odds to become the greatest woman of her age. Combining fiction, history, and Hildegardian philosophy, Illuminations presents an arresting portrait of a woman of faith and power—a visionary in every sense of the word.

My Quick Thoughts:

  • A stunning, beautiful read
  • One sign of a good book is when you want to learn more about the subject/character. This book did that to me. I was a googling fool. 
  • What a brave woman! Seriously, wow. 
  • I couldn’t help but wonder about how I would handle being given as a tithe to the Church at the age of 8. I can’t even imagine.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? 

24 thoughts on “Quick Thoughts on Five Recent Reads

  1. I haven't read any of these! Although as a trained musician I did learn about Hildegard von Bingen in college. There is a documentary about her sitting my Netflix queue too right now. Adding The Art Forger to my want-to-read list today!


  2. I have Ruins of Lace…haven't gotten to it yet, and yes…I love tidbits like that from history. :)I have the Middlesteins too…did you happen to be at the book event in New York City on September 29, and I missed meeting you? That's where I got my copy.I really want to read The Art Forger. Sounds GREAT.THANKS for this terrific post.ElizabethSilver's Reviewshttp://silversolara.blogspot.com


  3. I *wish* I had been at said event in NYC! But no, I wasn't. You have a couple of good reads coming up in Ruins and Middlesteins 🙂 If you have a chance to read The Art Forger you should definitively do so, I loved it!


  4. The Middlesteins really grabbed my attention. That name makes them sound comical, monstrous and ordinary.I'm actually afraid to read the new Junot Diaz because I loved Oscar Wao so hard.


  5. I knowwwww! I was thinking that my New Year's resolution would be to Just Say No in January. Meaning that I will say no to all the books everyone else wants me to read for all of January, and just read the books I want, no matter what they are, for January.


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