95. The Children Act by Ian McEwan
I loved Atonement, but I feel like I should just cut my losses with Ian McEwan at this point because I have not really liked anything else that I’ve read by him. I wasn’t even planning on reading The Children Act until I heard an interview with him about it on NPR that made me think it sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a chance. I should have stuck with my first instincts and stayed away. At least it was pretty short.
Fiona is a High Court Judge faced with determining what is in the best interest of a 17 year old boy whose parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses and refusing a potentially life-saving blood transfusion. Meanwhile she is facing challenges in her personal life when her husband tells her he wants to have an open marriage. Based on the interview I heard, I thought the book was more about her developing a relationship with the boy and it influencing the choices she had to make. That didn’t really play out. They barely interacted and when they did it took a kind of creepy turn. It didn’t seem like the book was really much about the case at all. I give it a 3 out of 10.
93. A Map of Betrayal by Ha Jin
Lilian, the daughter of an Irish-American mother and a Chinese father already knew her father had been a spy for China working in the CIA and eventually caught and convicted for his crimes. However, until she finds his diary after the death of both of her parents she didn’t realize that as part of his spy work he had to leave behind another family in China. She sets out to find her father’s first wife and kids in order to discover more about her father’s history and to hopefully connect with family she had never known. Through it all she discovers that her father’s life may not have been what she thought, and now faces the challenge of trying to keep future generations of her family from falling into the same trap.
I thought this was a pretty good book that demonstrated how complicated people’s stories can be. I didn’t enjoy it as much as some of Jin’s other books, but if you generally like his work you will probably enjoy this book too. I give it a 6 out of 10.
92. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Unfortunately my tardiness in not actually writing a review of this book until months after I read it means I honestly don’t remember enough details to write a very good review of it, which is a shame because I do remember really liking this book a lot when I was reading it. It’s a young adult novel about two teenagers Aysel and Roman who discover each other on a website devoted to helping people find suicide partners. Each of them is haunted by something from their past that makes them believe that the world would be better off without them in it, but now that they’ve found each other they start to see that maybe there is a reason to go on living. It was a really well written book with compelling characters who seemed to have real feelings. I give it a 7 out of 10.
91. The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande
This was the One Maryland, One Book selection for 2014. As is the custom one of my book clubs read it because of that. The book is Grande’s memoir about growing up poor in Mexico separated from her parents as they had illegally emigrated to America leaving her and her siblings with their abusive grandmother. Eventually her parents divorce, her mother pretty much completely abandons them, and they are smuggled to America to live with their father and his new wife. She then recounts her experiences living with her also abusive father, adjusting to life in a new country where she doesn’t understand the language, and working to eventually make something of her life. Reyna definitely has had an extremely difficult life, so the story is a very sad one to read for the most part. I would imagine that partly because English is her second language, the book is somewhat simply written. Thus although the story was compelling, I wasn’t really that enthralled with the book. I give it a 6 out of 10.
88. Lives in Ruins: Archeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble by Marilyn Johnson
This is Marilyn Johnson’s third foray into taking an in-depth look at a specific profession. She started with obituary writers, moved on to librarians in her second book, and now tackles archeologists in her latest work. I really loved the first two books a lot, so I was very excited to get my hands on a galley of this one.
Johnson provides a look at all facets of archeology as a profession from people who examine the earliest of remains to those looking into more modern civilizations. She pursues people working in all areas from under the water to points on land all over the globe. She not only interviews archeologists working in various field sites, but also engages in some archelogical work herself to try and get a true picture of what the job entails. She addresses how the glamorous Hollywood portrayal of archeologists doesn’t match up with the tedium and poor pay actually associated with the profession.
For anyone who is interested in the field of archeology or wants to know more about the profession this is an excellent book. I give it a 7 out of 10.
87. I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks by Gina Sheridan
The title of this book pretty much tells you exactly what it’s about. Arranged in categories according to their Dewey Decimal call number, each chapter shares a variety of stories about librarians’ strange experiences on the job. It was a short, quick read. It was fairly humorous, though I suspect that librarians themselves may find it more amusing than the general public. I’m not sure I would suggest seeking out a copy of the book, but if you happen to stumble across it and want a few laughs it’s worth checking out.