What the Nanny Saw

What the Nanny Saw has all the components of a fun, light chick lit novel but surprises the reader with a semi-intelligent storyline that provides a well-depicted picture of the subprime mortgage crisis. After reading Fiona Neill’s fast paced, gossipy, scandal filled novel, I can’t believe I actually have a stronger grasp of what occurred during the 2008 financial crisis. This book is relevant taking on thought-provoking themes yet remains enjoyable without being too serious. Neill has done a good job of allowing the reader to indulge in the family and friends peculiar, secretive lives while infusing the tale with interesting, deeper layers. This book was a good way to say goodbye to 2012. I am looking forward to more wonderful reading in 2013!

The American Heiress

This historical, turn of the 20th century romance is not a genre I enjoy as it has too much annoying fluff of the period. I am easily bored by the lengthy descriptions of the gilded manors, upper crust sports, the uncomfortable dresses and priceless jewels. During this book I was forced to skim paragraphs to try to get to the story line. The pace was slow, especially being peppered by detailed description of the era. Daisy Goodwin’s plot was painstakingly predictable. Spoiler Alert. Rich young American marries an English Duke. The Duke cheats on his wife with a character the wife naively believes is her confidant. When the cheating is discovered and the wife has a chance to leave she instead remains. These types of stories are a dime a dozen.

What was interesting to learn was that during the America’s Golden Age American heiresses would go to Europe to spend their money buying into the titled gentry. I could have learned this by reading a blurb on Wikipedia, instead of a four hundred and fifty plus page novel. My last two reads have been disappointing. My colleague gave me, What the Nanny Saw. The reviews are positive, but my colleague voiced issues. Fingers crossed that I enjoy this next read. Onward and hopefully up!

The Casual Vacancy

I did not like Harry Potter. I only read about twenty pages as I did not like that poor Harry had to live under the staircase. Chris wanted me to try J.K. Rowling’s new adult fiction piece after Jon Stewart interviewed the acclaimed author and gave the book high praise. Since one of my colleagues let me borrow it, I was keen on giving it a go.

Rowling may be a good children’s writer, but fails miserably in creating a compelling adult read.  The book is far too long. The story, which is pretty dull, could have been wrapped up in under two hundred pages.  There are too many characters. Instead of exploring sub-stories that may have been more gribbing, Rowling skims over plot lines. For example, I would have enjoyed learning more of the mental illness that plagues Cubby. There was a grammatical mistake ten pages into the book. I found this inexcusable of Rowling and Little, Brown publishing. The social worker breaks confidentiality and it’s glossed over. My work friend and colleague did not finish the book. She disliked the language immensely. The language of the uneducated, poor villagers did not bother me as much as the lack of story and the hollowness of her characters.  I have to ask, if this had been Rowling’s first novel, would there have been more? I sincerely doubt it. 

The Rice Mother

There is nothing new about this storyline. Abuse, addictions, war, loss, nasty family dynamics are all portrayed in The Rice Mother by Rani Manicka. This is a story about four generations of a family in Malaysia with the matriarch at the center of the plot for the majority of the book. The narrator eventually switches to other members of the family. This is a very long book that unfortunately never grabbed me. Additionally, sadly the real action does not occur until seventy-five pages till the book's end. Many parts of this book were confusing and lacking the details to clarify the storyline. The author was too descriptive of the environment, hindering the plot advancement and again failing to illuminate the subtle details, which pulls together the mysteries of the story. I found the pace frustratingly slow. There were so many voices that it often felt disjointed. Finally, the characters were one-dimensional.  Better family sagas include, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Glass Castle, A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Namesake, Dreams of Joy, Bastard Out of Carolina

My next book is J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy. Although the reviews have been poor and the friend that let me borrow her book only read the first few hundred pages, I am looking forward to diving in and seeing what I think. I will let you all know!  


The Sound of Butterflies

This book reminded me a bit of Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, although unfortunately not as good. The mystery of why the main character returns home mute, unravels too late in the story and without enough detail. Most of the characters are flat. Characters that show promise are not developed. I would have loved to learn more of Agatha and her gypsy ways. 

The novel is very loosely based on a violent, South American rubber baron. Even with some historical accuracies I would not classify this book as historical fiction. The nasty, horrendously violent realities of the history are not sufficiently explored or divulged. The Sound of Butterflies is a throw away, forgettable read but was fine for my long weekend in the desert while visiting my grandfather.  If you are in the mood for a Victorian novel, which is peppered with sex, abuse, mystery and deceits check it out as it is marginally entertaining.